Keep Your Eyes Safe This Summer

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Most Americans know the importance of UV blocking sunscreen to protect their skin from aging and diseases. Unfortunately, according to the recent American Eye-Q survey funded by the American Optometric Association (AOA), only 32 percent of Americans understand the same is true when it comes to protecting their eyes.

Summer can be a dangerous time for the eyes because people spend so much time outdoors, exposed to the sun. Overexposure to ultraviolet rays fast forwards aging of the eyes and increases the risk for serious diseases.

If the eyes are exposed to excessive amounts of UV radiation over a short period of time, a sunburn called photokeratitis can occur. Symptoms can include pain, red eyes, a foreign body sensation or gritty feeling in the eyes, extreme sensitivity to light, and excessive tearing.

Although photokeratitis is usually temporary and rarely causes permanent damage, ongoing exposure to UV radiation can cause serious harm. Research indicates that long-term exposure to small amounts of UV radiation increases the chance of developing cataracts, macular degeneration – the leading cause of blindness in adults – and eye cancer. Young children are even more susceptible than adults to UV overexposure and life long UV damage because their eye structures allow even more UV light to enter the eye.

To provide adequate protection for the eyes, OOPA recommends:

·    Use sunglasses that block out 99 to 100 percent of both UV-A and UV-B radiation — and screen out 75 to 90 percent of visible light.
·    Use sunglasses with lenses that are perfectly matched in color and free of distortion and imperfection. The lenses should be gray for proper
     color recognition.
·    Apply UV-blocking sunscreen around the eye area, and wear a hat to further protect eyes and help prevent
     premature aging.

In addition to keeping eyes safe from UV radiation this summer, OOPA urges people to protect their eyes during the Fourth of July holiday. Unfortunately, using fireworks improperly can cause serious injuries, the most common being eye lacerations and contusions caused by sparklers. OOPA offers the following tips to help protect and preserve eyesight during the Fourth of July holiday:

·    Discuss firework safety with children and teens prior to the Fourth of July holiday.
·    Do not allow kids to handle fireworks and never leave them unsupervised near fireworks.
·     Wear protective eyewear when lighting and handling fireworks of any kind.
·    Store fireworks, matches and lighters in a secure place where children won’t find them.
·    Refrain from purchasing sparklers. Heating up to 1,800 degrees, sparklers are the number one cause of fireworks injuries requiring trips to the   
     emergency room.
·    Be aware of your surroundings and only light fireworks when family, friends and children are at a safe distance.

To monitor eye health and maintain good vision, schedule regular comprehensive eye exams with an eye doctor. To find an optometrist near you, please visit the OOPA website at www.oregonoptometry.org.

Dr. Kirsten Scott, O is a member of the Oregon Optometric Physicians Association. She practices in Bend and can be reached at drks@iebend.com, 541-382-5701.

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