Treat yourself to a cool pair of sunglasses- but also make sure they offer adequate protection from the ultraviolet rays of the sun. During the warmer months the level of ultraviolet radiation is significantly greater than in the winter and everyone is at risk for eye damage. According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology, sunglasses and a wide-brimmed hat are the best defense system for your eyes against sunlight and harmful UV rays.

Choose the right shades and take other protective measures to decrease your risk for eye damage. Here are some tips:

  • When purchasing sunglasses, select a pair that blocks 99 to 100% of UV-A and UV-B rays. The ability to block UV light is not dependent on the darkness of the lens. UV protection can come from adding chemicals to the lens material or coating applied to the lens surface.
  • You don’t have to pay $100 for a pair of sunglasses with good UV protection. Many $10 shades provide equal or greater protection. With expensive sunglasses, you may pay more for style, frame quality and scratch-resistant coatings, but not necessarily better UV ray blocking ability.

By not wearing sunglasses, you put yourself at risk for early onset cataracts.

  • If your lenses have become scratched or damaged, consider investing in a new pair. Make sure your new pair fit your face and block the sun from as many angles as possible. Most protective eyewear lenses are made of polycarbonate, which is 10 times stronger than other plastics.
  • Sunlight reflected off the water, snow or pavement is dangerous. If you enjoy spending time where sun reflection is intense, such as water sports, consider purchasing goggles or sunglasses that wrap around your temples to block sun rays from entering on the sides.
  • Try to stay out of the sun between 10:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m. when the sun’s ultraviolet rays are the strongest. Still, you need to protect your eyes whenever you are outside for a prolonged period. Remember that your eyes can also be harmed by other UV light sources such as tanning lights. Avoid these high energy UV rays.
  • Smoking is bad for your eyes; research has linked smoking to an increased risk of developing age-related macular degeneration, cataracts, and optic nerve damage, all of which can lead to blindness.
  • Eat a diet rich in fruits and vegetables, particularly dark leafy greens such as spinach, kale, or collard greens to keep your eyes healthy. Research has also shown that eating fish high in omega-3 fatty acids, such as salmon, tuna, and halibut is beneficial to eye health.

Spring is a great time to develop healthy habits that protect your skin as well as your eyes. Have a comprehensive dilated eye exam and talk to your doctor about your family’s eye health history. Don’t forget the kids; protect their eyes with hats and sunglasses. According to the American Optometric Association, children are at a greater risk of UV damage because the lenses of their eyes are more transparent, which allows more short wavelength light to reach the retina.

Remember, by not wearing sunglasses, you put yourself at risk for early onset cataracts. If you are getting a cataract that is impairing your vision and interfering with your life, check out the video below to learn about your options and talk to your doctor about the best option for you.

Sources: American Optometric Association, American Academy of Ophthalmology, National Eye Institute, and Washington and Adventist HealthCare Shady Grove Medical Centers. For additional information, consult your physician.