UV Exposure: Cataracts and Macular Degeneration

Who is at risk from UV rays? Everyone. Unfortunately, no one is immune to sunlight-related eye disorders. Ultraviolet (UV) radiation comprises of invisible high energy rays from the sun. UV radiation is known to be a contributing cause of cataracts and macular degeneration.  The good news is there are steps you can take to help protect yourself.

Ask Your Doctor

Getting a comprehensive annual eye exam is the most important step you can take to help monitor and protect your vision health.  It is also important to use lenses that block 100% of the harmful UV rays you are exposed to on a daily basis.

To check whether your eyewear provides UV protection, you can go to an eyecare professional to have your lenses measured for UV absorption. The UV meter takes only a few seconds to read and will ensure that you are properly protected.

Know Your Lenses

Sun glasses don’t necessarily mean UV protection. It is a myth that tinted glasses or all sunglasses protect you from UV exposure. UV protection is not a function of the color of the lens but of the material used. Therefore some clear lenses can protect you from harmful UV exposure. Polycarbonate lenses are clear lenses that provide 100% UV protection with or without tint or color.

Photochromic lenses change to be as dark as necessary in proportion to the intensity of UV rays. They also provide protection, comfort and optimized vision.

Polarized lenses have a special filter that blocks glare. Glare occurs when natural light waves hit reflective surfaces such as pavement, windshields or snow. Glare can be very harsh to unprotected eyes and can alter perceptions of shapes, colors and contrast.  Polarized lenses significantly reduce this glare and allow wearers to be in the sun without squinting. This reduces eyestrain and facial tension. High-quality polarized lenses also offer 100% UV protection.

Preventing Eye Disease

According to the World Health Organization, 75% of the world's blindness is preventable.

But to prevent the serious eye diseases that cause vision loss and blindness, early detection is vital. Most serious eye diseases have no warning signs.

Now think about this.
UV damage is one of the leading contributors to macular degeneration. Are you at risk?  The answer is yes.  It is important for everyone, regardless of age, to wear UV protective eyewear while outdoors. It is also very important to schedule comprehensive eye exams every year.

I don't have any symptoms, why would I need an eye exam?

Though most serious eye diseases such as macular degeneration, glaucoma, or diabetic retinopathy can occur at any age, few people visit an eye doctor unless they have symptoms. The problem is, by then you may too late.

The most important thing you can do to prevent eye disease and vision loss is to have a comprehensive eye exam every year. Simple eye tests only check for prescription changes and will not detect major eye diseases.

What happens in a comprehensive eye exam?

Comprehensive eye exams involve more than just testing your vision. They also help assess the overall health of your entire visual system and other potentially serious medical conditions.

The tests included in a comprehensive eye exam are:

  • Eye muscles test to check their ability to rotate and coordinate properly
  • Visual field test to check for the presence of blind spots in your peripheral or "side" vision. These types of blind spots can originate from eye diseases such as glaucoma. Analysis of blind spots may also help identify specific areas of brain damage caused by a stroke or tumor
  • Glaucoma test to measure the pressure inside your eye
  • Slit-lamp examination to examine the cornea, iris, lens, and anterior chamber of your eye
  • Retinal examination to examine the back of your eye, including your retina, optic disk, and the underlying layer of blood vessels that nourish the retina.
  • Pupil dilation to enlarge the pupils and make them easier to examine.

Can comprehensive eye exams detect more than just eye diseases?

Yes. Comprehensive eye exams can also help reveal other health problems. By just looking into your eyes, your eye doctor can often predict whether you are at risk for diabetes, multiple sclerosis, hypertension, stroke and heart disease.

Interested in learning more about the prevention and detection of eye disease? 

Eyes and Overall Health

They say your eyes are the windows to the soul. They are also the windows to your health because they allow your eye doctor to see what's going on inside you.

Did you know your eyes are the only part of your body where eye doctors can look directly at internal, functioning blood vessels? These offer clues and warnings of serious diseases such as high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, multiple sclerosis (MS), diabetes, and even some types of cancer.

Comprehensive Eye Exams* and Detection of Serious Systemic Diseases

A comprehensive eye exam can serve as an early detector of serious health problems before other symptoms occur.

During a comprehensive eye exam, your eye doctor will assess your visual performance, perform a series of tests for glaucoma, and examine your retina for damage while checking blood vessels, nerve functions and blood flow in your eyes.

Systemic diseases such as high blood pressure, diabetes, and multiple sclerosis, frequently cause changes in the eye that can show up as inflammation, small blood clots or swelling within the retina. Through a comprehensive eye exam, your eye doctor can detect these abnormalities, treat them or, when necessary, refer you to the appropriate medical specialist.

Ask your Eye Doctor

Even if you don’t have any vision problems, it is important to schedule yearly comprehensive eye exams with your eye doctor. This is an easy step you can take to help protect your vision and overall health.

* Comprehensive Eye Exam: includes dilated retinal examination

Ultraviolet Rays and Vision Health

Did you know that prolonged exposure to the sun’s ultraviolet rays may cause eye conditions that can lead to vision loss and blindness?

Ultraviolet radiation is composed of invisible high-energy UV-A and UV-B rays from the sun. Recent studies have shown that without protection, prolonged exposure to ultraviolet radiation may cause serious eye conditions such as cataracts and macular degeneration and can lead to vision loss and blindness.

Everyone is at risk for eye damage from the sun and it is important to protect your eyes from the damage caused by even a single outing without protective eyewear. The same UV-A and UV-B rays that can damage skin and cause skin cancer, wrinkles, and premature aging can also damage your eyesight. Similar to sunburns on your skin, burns on the outer surface of the eyes usually disappear within a few days, but may lead to further complications later on. So when you protect yourself from the sun, don’t just think about your skin – think about your eyes too.

UV-Related Facts

  • During the summer months, the level of ultraviolet radiation is three times greater than in the winter.
  • Reflected sunlight off water, snow and pavement can be the most dangerous type of UV light because it is intensified.
  • Of the 20 million people with cataracts, an estimated 20% of these cases may be due to UV-rays.
  • Every year 3.2 million people go blind from eye conditions caused due to prolonged UV exposure.

What should you do?

Have fun in the sun, but remember to protect your eyes!

  • To protect your eyes, wear the right kind of sunglasses and a broad-rimmed hat whenever stepping outside, even when it is overcast. Don’t be fooled by a cloudy day, as the sun’s rays can still inflict damage through the clouds.
  • Ask your eye care professional. Sunglasses don’t necessarily mean UV protection. It is a myth that tinted glasses or all sunglasses protect you from UV exposure. UV protection is not a function of the color of the lens but of the material used or treatment applied. Therefore some clear lenses can protect you from harmful UV exposure too.
  • Wear sunglasses that block 100 percent of UV-A and UV-B rays. To check whether your eyewear provides the necessary UV protection, have your eye care professional measure your lenses for UV absorption. The UV meter takes only a few seconds to read and will ensure that you have appropriate UV protective eyewear.
  • Don’t forget protection for the kids. Children are more vulnerable to dangerous UV rays and it is especially important for them to wear hats and sunglasses. Keep children away from the sun between 10:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m. when the sun’s ultraviolet rays are the strongest.

Getting a comprehensive eye exam yearly is another important step you can take to help monitor and protect your vision health from UV rays. Early detection is crucial in preventing and treating eye diseases and conditions. Find an Eye Doctor near you.

Eye care Basics

Annual eye exams are critical to your overall health.

Look in the mirror. You’ve got one pair of eyes. They’re pretty special, aren’t they? Your teeth get cleaned. Your car gets an oil change. Your hair gets a trim. Maybe you even indulge in pedicures or other spa-like pampering. But how often do you think of your eyes unless something goes wrong? If you’re like most Americans, not often enough.

Make no mistake: a simple thing that’s good for your eyes – a comprehensive exam, each and every year – is about a lot more than getting glasses or contacts. Many eye and vision problems have no obvious signs or symptoms. As a result, individuals are often unaware that problems exist. Annual eye exams not only help correct vision problems; comprehensive eye exams can also reveal the warning signs of more serious undiagnosed health problems such as hypertension, cardiovascular disease and diabetes. Even if you don’t need vision correction, you need that yearly exam.

Good vision is important for every member of your family.

Most people consider vision their most important sense, yet less than 50% of Americans get eye exams more frequently than every two years. One in five people are at risk for vision loss, and preventive care could address many of the problems. No matter what their age, eye exams are vital to productivity and health for your entire family, from children to grandparents, and everyone in between.

Babies
Did you know that eye care experts say children should have their first eye exam before they can even walk? That’s right.  The American Optometric Association (AOA) recommends a six-month exam to make sure the baby's eyes are developing normally and to stop bigger problems down the road.  After that, a yearly trip to the eye doctor will keep tabs on young eyes that can change fast.

Children
About 80% of what we learn is through our eyes, yet one study shows a whopping 85% of America’s pre-schoolers haven’t received a vision exam by age five. And a pre-kindergarten exam is a must (don’t assume school-offered vision screenings are enough). Studies also show that 60% of students identified as problem learners have undetected vision troubles.  And according to the National Eye Institute, Amblyopia, or lazy eye, is the most common casue of visual impairment in childhood.  The good news is that annual eye exams can protect your child's vision, their overall health and their education.

Adults
We all know that over time our bodies change—especially our vision. As we age, we’re more susceptible to cataracts, glaucoma and macular degeneration. Detecting these conditions early can help keep your eyes and body healthy. Your eye doctor can look for more than vision problems; they can look for signs of serious health conditions like diabetic eye disease, high blood pressure and high cholesterol.  A visit to your eye doctor won’t keep you from aging, but it can definitely help protect your eyes and your overall health.

Eye exams are simple and painless.

Eye exams are about a lot more than updating your eyewear prescription. During a preventive eye exam, your doctor will check all aspects of your vision, including the structure of the eyes and how well they work together. Based on the findings of the exam, your eye doctor will recommend a plan that’s right for you. The good news is that eye exams don’t hurt, and they typically take less than an hour to complete.

Vision coverage can help you save.

Having vision coverage and getting yearly preventative eye exams can help you save. Vision insurance will mean less out of pocket expenses for exams and materials for you and your family. And if your eye doctor detects signs of health conditions before they become serious, you’ll be sure to save on ever-rising medical expenses.

Check with your employer to see if vision coverage is available to you.

Visual Fatigue

Just like the muscles in your body, your eyes can get tired.
For the job they do, your eyes contain the strongest muscles in your body. But as strong as they are, they can become strained and fatigued by sitting in front of a computer, under fluorescent lights or in front of a TV for a couple of hours.  This is called visual fatigue.

Why do I care about visual fatigue?

Today, more and more people are suffering from visual fatigue without knowing the cause of their symptoms. Modern work and lifestyle changes have forced us to spend extended hours in close-range activities such as computer work, e-books, and hand-held gaming. The increased demands of these activities on your eyes can leave you with uncomfortable and sometimes painful symptoms. For some people, visual fatigue can also lead to reduction in productivity and ability to concentrate—and may even negatively impact your vision health.

Common symptoms

    • Headaches
    • Tired Eyes
    • Neck or Back pain
    • Burning / Stinging eyes
    • Difficulty focusing after extended periods of time

If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, your eye doctor may be able to help.

What should I do?

Visual fatigue can be diagnosed by an eye doctor through an eye exam and a discussion on your lifestyle and work habits. If you have visual fatigue, your eye doctor has new technology designed to help you combat it.

Watch a commercial on visual fatigue