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Eye Health Center

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More People -- Even Kids -- Need to Wear Sunglasses

More Than a Quarter of Adults Don't Wear Sunglasses; Many Parents Don't Have Their Kids Wear Shades

UV Eye Exposure & Health Problems continued...

After a long day at the beach, eyes may seem bloodshot, swollen, and light-sensitive.

Sunburn of the eye, or photokeratitis, is one effect. It's also known as ''snow blindness," as it happens to skiers, too.

In severe cases, it can cause loss of vision for up to 48 hours, according to the report.

Long-term, excess UV exposure can cause a variety of eye problems, including:

  • "Surfer's eye," also known as pterygium: This abnormal but usually benign growth on the eye's surface can itch, swell, and become irritated. Surgery can be done to remove it, but it can come back.
  • Cataracts: The progressive clouding of the lens of the eye.
  • Age-related macular degeneration: The macula is at the back of the eye, in the middle of the retina. Damage to the nerve cell in the macula can dull colors and blur fine detail in your vision.
  • Cancer of the eye, eyelid, or nearby skin.

UV Radiation, City by City

Some cities have more total days per year with a high UV Index. The index is the amount of radiation expected to reach the earth's surface when the sun is highest in the sky.

It is calculated by the Environmental Protection Agency and the National Weather Service.They offer UV projections for about 60 cities across the U.S. and Puerto Rico.

The top five, and their total days of extreme and very high risk UV exposure:

  • San Juan, Puerto Rico, with 286 days
  • Honolulu, 253
  • Miami, 201
  • Tampa Bay, 171
  • New Orleans, 163

Sunglass Report: Perspective

"What was really surprising was that more than 20% of the respondents do not believe they are at risk [for eye problems] due to UV exposure," says Anne Sumers, MD, an ophthalmologist in Ridgewood, N.J. She reviewed the findings for WebMD.

To persuade people to adopt the sunglasses habit, she focuses not on long-term health risks from UV exposure, such as cataracts, but on short-term benefits.

"A good pair of sunglasses will help you find your golf ball," she tells her patients. They will help prevent sunburned eyes at the beach or while skiing, she says. "They will protect your eyes while mountain biking."

For younger patients, she reminds them that wearing sunglasses will cut down on wrinkles and crows' feet around their eyes.

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