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Q: Is sunlight harmful to my vision?

Posted November 06, 2013 in Advice Column, Johnston

A: The same sun rays that lead to skin cancer and premature aging of the skin are just as bad for your eyes, according to Dr. Matthew Howie, therapeutic optometrist. The culprit is ultraviolet (UV) rays, and because May is National UV Awareness Month, Dr. Howie encourages everyone to be “Sun-wise With Your Eyes”

“Unprotected exposure to UV radiation can cause photokeratitis, which is basically a sunburn of the eyes marked by painful, red eyes and a sensitivity to light,” Dr. Howie says. “The symptoms usually clear up quickly and cause no permanent damage to the eyes.” However, Dr. Howie added, growing evidence suggests that long-term exposure to UV rays can lead to macular degeneration and cataracts, serious eye conditions that can cause vision impairment or loss.”

Dr. Howie suggests the following to protect the eyes from serious damage:

If at all possible, limit your time in the sun. Wear a wide-brimmed hat. Wear sunglasses that filter 99 percent of UV rays

“Don’t forget the children, “Dr. Howie says. “Children are especially susceptible to eye damage from the sun. The lenses in their eyes do not block as much UV radiation as in adults. Follow the same precautions as you would for an adult, but be sure to choose sunglasses that fit their smaller faces, have impact-resistant lenses, and have lenses large enough to shield the entire eye.”

Information provided by Dr. Matthew Howie, O.D., Total Family Eye Care, 1451 S.E. Third St., Suite 400, Grimes, 986-1234.

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