Spring has sprung, and with it comes a heightened danger to eyes from the sun's harmful ultraviolet (UV) rays.
Prolonged exposure to UV rays can burn the surface of eyes. The cumulative effect of UV damage has been linked to vision-robbing cataracts and age-related macular degeneration later in life.
"We can't stress enough how important it is to protect your eyes every day from the sun. Even when the weather is overcast, the sun still emits intense, harmful rays," Daniel D. Garrett, vice president of Prevent Blindness America, a volunteer eye health and safety organization in Chicago.
Sunglasses and a brimmed hat protect eyes. But check sunglasses before you buy them. Just because a lens is tinted doesn't mean it wards off UV rays. Proper protection isn't expensive. Affordable sunglasses that block 99 to 100 percent of UV-A and UV-B rays are widely available.
People who've had cataract surgery or who have other retinal disorders, and people who take certain medications -- such as tetracycline, sulfa drugs, birth control pills, diuretics, and tranquilizers -- are at increased risk for UV eye damage.
Children are more susceptible to UV damage than adults, because they tend to spend more time outdoors. Parents can protect their children's eyes by:
Purchasing sunglasses that offer UV protection.
Ensuring that the sunglasses fit the child's face and shield the eyes from all angles.
Choosing sunglasses with lenses that are impact-resistant and made of polycarbonate.
Always insisting that children wear a brimmed hat.
"Sun damage accumulates over time, so teaching children to protect their eyes is an important early step toward a lifetime of healthy vision," Garrett said.