In surveys, people consistently say that vision is the sense that they cherish the most, yet most people are unaware that every day they spend in the sun without sunglasses may be putting them at risk of eye damage — possibly even serious eye conditions and permanent vision loss.
That’s why it’s so crucial that sunwear is the primary prescription pair for the eye health of your patients. Focus on educating your patients with eye health tips about UV light and busting the myth that a pair of cheapos or no sunglasses at all will do.
We make it easy to explain the benefits of prescription sunwear and the importance of wearing sunglasses, with our sun protection white papers.
Sometimes, it helps to look at the bigger picture. Here's a summary of the major structures of the eye, along with a brief description of the damage too much sun can inflict on them:
Though they aren’t part of the eye itself, the eyelids and skin around the eyes serve important functions, and the protection of these structures should be part of your eye care.
Too much time in the sun without sunglasses that block 100 percent of UV and a significant amount of high-energy visible light (HEV or blue light) can increase the risk of cancer of the eyelids and skin around the eyes.
The most common cancer that affects the eyelids is basal cell carcinoma (BCC), which accounts for about 90 percent of all eyelid tumors and is the most frequently occurring type of cancer in the entire body.
The front surface of the eye
The front surface of the eye consists of these structures and may be affected by these sun-related eye problems:
The clear central “window” of the eyeball allows light to enter the eye. The cornea provides about 70 percent of the focusing power of the eye.
Photokeratitis is a painful sunburn of the cornea. Though commonly called snow blindness, photokeratitis can occur in the summertime as well — especially when on the water, which reflects UV and HEV rays.
The tough outer coating that forms the “white” of the eye.
Pterygium is a pink, triangular-shaped growth on the sclera that can invade the cornea, causing vision problems.
A thin, clear membrane that contains tiny blood vessels and covers the sclera.
Pinguecula is a non-cancerous but unsightly yellow growth in the conjunctiva.
A conjunctival tumor is a cancer of the conjunctiva called squamous cell carcinoma, which can recur after treatment and may spread to other parts of the body. Conjunctival tumors have been linked to repeated sun exposure.
The lens of the eye
The lens of the eye works with the cornea to focus light on the retina. Studies have linked high lifetime exposure to sunlight to certain types of cataracts (a clouding of the lens), which affects vision and can be treated only with surgery.
The retina is the light-sensitive inner lining of the back of the eye, where light is transformed into electrical impulses that are transmitted to the brain for vision to occur. Longer wavelength UV rays (UVA) and HEV blue light can penetrate deep into the eye and have been shown in laboratory tests to cause damage to light-sensitive cells in the retina consistent with changes caused by age-related macular degeneration (AMD).
These and other studies suggest too much sunlight over a person’s lifetime may increase the risk of AMD later in life. Currently, there is no cure for macular degeneration, which can cause permanent vision loss.
The best UV protection for lifetime eye health
The best eye health solution to protect the eyes, eyelids, and skin around the eyes from sun-related damage is to wear the best prescription sunglasses, which should block 100 percent of UV rays and also shield the eyes from solar blue light.
Make sunwear the primary pair each sun season, so your patients don’t have to worry about facing potentially irreversible damage to their sight.
And remind your patients that UV radiation can penetrate clouds, so wearing sunglasses is important on overcast and cloudy days as well as sunny days.
Take this information with you this sun season, and educate your patients on the eye health benefits of sunwear, year-round.