According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology, as many as 43 million Americans will develop age-related eye diseases by 2020. This prediction continues to increase yearly, as the baby boomer generation grows older and such conditions as cataracts, glaucoma, and macular degeneration become more prevalent.
Combat these staggering statistics and take these important precautions to ensure healthy eyes for future years:
Precaution #1: Wear Sunglasses Daily
The sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays can speed up cataract development. Cataracts are an age-related clouding of the lens that negatively affects vision. Sunglasses are your eyes’ greatest protective barrier from exposure to UV rays. Be sure to look for sunglasses with 100 percent blockage from both ultraviolet A (UVA) and ultraviolet B (UVB) rays. Whether purchasing sunglasses or sun readers, choose close-fitting, wrap-around frames that block stray sunlight from reaching your eyes at all angles. Sport and polarized sunglasses are great alternatives for people who spend a lot of time outdoors working in the yard, driving, or participating in physical activity.
Precaution #2: Assess Your UV Risk
Your susceptibility to eye damage increases every time you step outside. Assess your UV risk based on the following factors:
- Geographic Location – UV levels are highest near the equator, so your risk decreases the farther you are from the equator. For example, South Americans have a higher risk of UV damage than those living in Canada.
- Altitude – Mountain-dwellers, ski lovers, and serious hikers beware — high altitudes boast increased UV levels.
- Time of Day – Sun advisories are most common from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m because UV levels are greater when the sun is highest in the sky.
- Settings – Whether surrounded by plains, fields, or beaches, UV levels are higher in open spaces. UV levels nearly double if you live by reflective surfaces like water or snow.
- Medications – Be sure to check the labels on your medication bottles because certain medications can increase the body’s sensitivity to UV radiation, including birth control pills, sulfa drugs, and tetracycline.
To check the UV risk in your area, we recommend this easy-to-use weather widget.
Precaution #3: Don’t Look Directly Into Sunlight
Whether you stare at the sun on accident, work outdoors for your occupation, or you’re a curious child, this practice is very bad for the eyes. Excessive exposure to direct sunlight increases your risk for developing macular degeneration and growths on the surface eye. In more extreme cases, direct exposure can lead to serious cornea and retina damage and unfortunate vision loss.
Resources on Easy Ways to Protect Your Eyes
- All About Vision: Eight Ways to Protect Your Eyes
- CBS News: Five Ways to Protect Your Eyes
- WebMd: Ways to Protect Your Vision