Veterans — If you are out in the sunlight in the summer time, you should wear sunglasses with ultraviolet protection. Ultraviolet radiation from the sun's rays can potentially cause skin cancer and affect your overall health. It can also be damaging to your eyes and potentially harm your vision.
According to Dr. Kelly Thomann, Chief of the Optometry Program at Hudson Valley Health Care System, “Long-term UV radiation exposure puts you at a greater risk of developing ocular conditions such as cataracts and macular degeneration. In fact, people with any ocular disease should be especially cautious about protecting themselves from the sun.”
Dr. Thomann notes that while most elderly people will eventually develop cataracts, most individuals are not aware that increased UV radiation can result in cataracts developing earlier.
It is important to understand that lens darkness does not correlate with the amount of UV protection.
Good quality sunglasses are recommended when outdoors, even if it's for a few minutes at a time. The sunglass frame should be wide and adequately cover the eyes and fragile tissue around the eyes including the eyelids.
Dr. Thomann reminds her Veteran patients that the fragile tissue around the eyelids can develop melanoma from UV radiation — another reason to wear quality sunglasses whenever you are out in the sun.
A hat with a brim is also beneficial to block out those sun rays coming in over the top of your sunglasses.
As Dr. Becky Forman points out, “When purchasing sunglasses, it is important to make sure there is both UV-A and UV-B protection, as both types contribute to dermatological and ocular disease.”
Dr. Forman is a Staff Optometrist at VA Hudson Valley.
She adds that “It is important to understand that lens darkness does not correlate with the amount of UV protection, which is the key factor in adequate sun protection. Polarized sunglasses may be beneficial in patients who experience glare.”
Most eye doctors recommend wraparound sunglasses for better protection. And while prescription sunglasses are better, standard off the rack sunglasses are okay if they provide full protection.
Dr. Forman says Veterans should look for sunglasses that absorb at least 90 percent of UV radiation.
“Look for the two categories of protection on the label — UV-A and UV-B.”
Routine visits to your VA eye doctor will help determine your specific UV protection needs and new advances in sunglass wear.