Summer Eye Safety
Young people are particularly susceptible to harmful UV rays that affect vision. Ultraviolet (UV) protection is a risk to the eyes as well as the skin. Prolonged exposure to the sun’s UV rays without proper eye protection may cause the eyes to suffer short or long-term damage. Protection can be achieved by simple, safe, and inexpensive methods such as wearing a hat and using sunglasses that properly absorb UV radiation. Eye doctors caution that the effects of sunlight exposure are cumulative. Individuals whose work or recreational activities involve lengthy exposure to sunlight are at the greatest risk. UV radiation reflects off of surfaces such as snow, water, and white sand, so the risk is particularly high for people on beaches, boats, or ski slopes. The risk for serious damage is greatest during mid-day hours from 10:00 AM to 3:00 PM during the summer. Children and teenagers are particularly susceptible to the sun's damaging rays because they typically spend more time outdoors than adults, and the small crystalline lenses inside their eyes are more transparent than those of adults. The transparent lenses allow more light to reach the retina, the light detecting nerve tissue at the back the eye. Advise students to wear protective eyewear any time they are exposed to UV radiation, even on a cloudy day. Effective sunglasses block 99% to 100% of UV-A and UV-B radiation.
Sports-related Eye Injuries
Warm weather means an increase in outdoor activities, which create a greater risk for sports-related eye injuries. These injuries are the leading cause of blindness in school-age children. 72% of sports-related eye injuries happen to people who are 25 years and younger. Only 15% of children wear eye protection for sports activities. Baseball is the cause of the greatest number of sportsrelated eye injuries in children aged 14 and younger. Basketball is the leading cause of eye injuries for ages 15 to 24. 90% of sports-related eye injuries can be prevented with proper eye protection. Everyday prescription eyewear or sunglasses do not provide sufficient protection and fail to meet minimal impact requirements for sports. Instead, specially designed protective eyewear that meets rigid standards should be used. Eye doctors recommend lenses made of polycarbonate that carry the “American Society of Testing Materials” label. For information about a sports eye safety program in Ohio, visit www.playhardgear.com.
Contact lenses pose two problems for students: 1. Eye infections can be caused from contaminated contact lens storage cases as well as contamination from reuse of lens disinfecting solution. Remind your students to follow their contact lens care guidelines, including using fresh lens storage solution each time lenses are stored and frequent cleaning and replacement of contact lens cases in order to prevent contamination. 2. Wearing contact lenses longer than the recommended period can increase the risk of eye infections and disease. Wash contacts daily and replace them as prescribed.
Smoking is harmful to vision; unfortunately many people are not aware of this fact. Studies indicate that smoking can lead to vision problems later in life. For example, smoking significantly increases an individual’s risk of developing macular degeneration, an eye disease that is the leading cause of blindness in Americans over 60. Smoking also increases the risk of developing cataracts, a clouding of the lens in the eye. Heavy smokers have up to three times the risk of developing cataracts. Allergic conjunctivitis can also be caused by smoke exposure. Contact lens wearers who are smoke are at greater risk for serious eye infections. The risk of developing smoking-related illnesses is cumulative. Therefore, the risk of developing these eye conditions increases with the number of cigarettes and the length of time spent smoking.
Source: Ohio Optometric Association