Wearing sunscreen, properly hydrating and taking some time out of the sun are some of the best ways we can protect ourselves from harmful ultraviolet (UV) rays during the summer. However, protection doesn’t stop at the skin – this UV Safety Awareness Month we must not forget the value of wearing sunglasses and protecting your eyes, as well.
While summer has the strongest UV rays, our eyes are vulnerable to the sun all year round. Unfortunately, many health plan members may be unaware of the role excessive sunlight can have on your unprotected eyes – and the services available to them through their health plans to stay safe.
Specifically, exposure to UV rays can burn eye tissue and increase the risk of developing several eye conditions that can lead to blindness, such as cataracts and macular degeneration. UV exposure has also been found to break down the sensitive tissues of the macula – the middle of the retina – responsible for central vision and fine detail perception.
Sunglasses for the eyes are like sunscreen for the skin. By blocking UV rays, sunglasses can prevent vision loss and other eye conditions that may develop from prolonged, unprotected UV exposure. These eye conditions can be costly to manage, and when diagnosed too late, can lead to vision loss and in some cases, blindness. Therefore, sunglasses can serve as a proactive measure to protecting eyesight and therefore, overall health, and help save costs for both members and health plans.
To properly protect your eyes and reduce the risk of vision loss, this UV Safety Awareness Month, we are reminded to wear sunglasses to reduce the risk of UV-related vision damage whenever outside. Ensure the pair you’re wearing protects you from both UVA and UVB radiation, and if you wear prescription eyeglasses, be sure they have 100% UV protective coating. Also, keep in mind that even when it’s cloudy, the sun’s rays can pass through, so it’s important to protect yourself from the sun’s UV rays no matter the weather.
When picking out your sunglasses, here are a few tips to consider:
- Check they are 100% UV protected, making sure they block both UV-A and UV-B rays.
- Choose wrap-around styles – sunglasses that wrap around your temples are more likely to block the sun’s rays from the side.
- Wear sunglasses in addition to contact lenses – simply wearing contact lenses does not protect your eyes from UV rays, so wear sunglasses whenever outdoors.
- In addition to sunglasses, wear a wide-brimmed hat for additional protection.
Eye damage caused by UV rays is silent until the harm has already been done and affects people of all ages. Additionally, it’s important for health plans and their members to remember that protecting eyes does not start in adulthood – children are also vulnerable to the sun’s UV rays. This UV Safety Awareness Month, make it a family affair to protect everyone’s eyes by wearing sunglasses and getting some reprieve from the sun. After all, finding a pair you wear might mean the difference between developing eye health conditions caused by UV exposure or not.
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