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An Eye Opening Reality: UV Protection for Eyes Especially Important During Summer Months

Tuesday, May 6, 2008 General News J E 4
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ST. LOUIS, May 5 Ultraviolet (UV) protection is a concernfor many Americans, particularly in the spring and summer months, but mostpeople are thinking about their skin, not their eyes. The American OptometricAssociation (AOA) warns that prolonged exposure to the sun's UV rays and shortwavelength light (violet and blue light) without proper protection may causeeye conditions that can lead to a variety of vision disorders.

According to the AOA's 2007 American Eye-Q(R) survey, which identifiedAmericans' attitudes and behaviors regarding eye care and related issues, 40percent of Americans do not think UV protection is an important factor toconsider when purchasing sunglasses.

"Just as skin is 'burned' by UV radiation the eye can also suffer damage,"said Gregory Good, OD, Ph.D., member of AOA's Commission on OphthalmicStandards. "The lesson -- especially for young people -- is that eyes needprotection, too. Protection can be achieved by simple, safe, and inexpensivemethods such as wearing a brimmed hat and using eyewear that properly absorbsUV radiation."

Overexposure to UV rays has been linked to age-related cataracts,pterygium, photokeratitis and corneal degenerative changes, the AOA said.These conditions can cause blurred vision, irritation, redness, tearing,temporary vision loss and, in some instances, blindness. And, while thecorrelation is still unclear, there appears to be a link between excessivesummer sun exposure and retinal pigmentation.

The AOA cautions that the effects of sunlight exposure are cumulative;therefore, individuals whose work or recreational activities involve lengthyexposure to sunlight are at the greatest risk. UV radiation reflects offsurfaces such as snow, water and white sand, so the risk is particularly highfor people on beaches, boats or ski slopes. The risk for serious damage isgreatest during the mid-day hours, generally from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., andduring summer months.

Children and teenagers are particularly susceptible to the sun's damagingrays because they typically spend more time outdoors than adults, and thelenses of their eyes are more transparent than those of adults. Thetransparent lenses allow more short wavelength light to reach the retina ofthe eye.

The effects of UV radiation are cumulative, so it's important to developgood protection habits early in life, such as wearing sunglasses with UVprotection. The American Eye-Q(R) survey showed that 61 percent of Americansbuy sunglasses for their children, but 23 percent do not check that the lensesprovide protection against UV rays.

By educating Americans about the dangers of UV rays on the eyes and theimportance of choosing proper eyewear that provides the best UV protection,doctors of optometry are helping patients protect their long-term eye health.

The following top five tips from the American Optometric Association canhelp prevent further eye damage from exposure to UV radiation:

Additionally, be sure to receive routine comprehensive eye exams from aneye doctor. It's a good way to monitor eye health, maintain good vision, andkeep up-to-date on the latest in UV radiation protection.

For additional information on UV protection, please visit:http://www.aoa.org/x4735.xml.

Survey Information

The second American Eye-Q(R) survey was commissioned by Opinion ResearchCorporation (ORC). Using a random digit dialing methodology, ORC conductedinterviews with 1,005 Americans 18 years and older who embodied a nationallyrepresentative sample of U.S. households. The margin of error is+/-3.1 percent for the general population. All data is weighted to representthe U.S. general population with respect to gender, geographic region, and agegroup.

About the American Optometric Association (AOA):

The American Optometric Association represents more than 34,000 doctors of
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