Survey says too many Americans are putting their vision at risk by not protecting their eyes from the sun.
Most of us are aware of the potentially dangerous effects of the sun on our skin. So we slather on the sunscreen, slap a hat on our heads, and stay in the shade when the sun is high. Unfortunately, very few of us pay attention to protecting our eyes when we’re outdoors.
A nationwide survey released today by the Vision Council reveals the risks that many of us take with our eyes and vision. Although 75 percent of Americans surveyed expressed concern about eye problems that might result from UV exposure, only 31 percent protect their eyes by wearing sunglasses every time they step into the sun.
“UV damage to your eyes can start in as little as 15 minutes,” said Justin Bazan, OD, medical adviser to the Vision Council, in a news release. “Many Americans have a ‘passive’ relationship with their sunglasses, and they don’t realize the dangerous health consequences that can occur from overexposure to the sun’s rays without the right eye protection.”
The lack of attention we pay to protecting our eyes from the sun is taking its toll. 34 percent of respondents have already experienced symptoms of prolonged UV exposure, such as red or swollen eyes, vision problems, and eye irritation.
The Vision Council’s report, based on a survey of 10,279 adults from across the United States, shows that Americans are much more aware of the long-term effects of the sun on their skin than their eyes. 51 percent of respondents identified skin cancer as a concern, and 42 percent worry about sunburn. But many fewer respondents identified sunburned eyes (31 percent), cataracts (26 percent) or age-related macular degeneration (21 percent) as concerns.
The results of the survey indicate that many Americans are playing a dangerous game with their vision. UV exposure to the eyes is risky – immediately and over longer periods of time.
Short-term effects may be experienced after just a few hours of intense, prolonged exposure to the sun. These include photokeratitis, or sunburned eyes, and pterygium, a growth on the surface of the eye. These conditions cause pain and irritation. Eyes may become bloodshot, irritated, swollen, or hypersensitive to light.
The longer-term effects are even more frightening. Cataracts and macular degeneration are dangerous disorders that may result from long-term exposure to UV light. Both carry the threat of eventual vision loss.
The following recommendations from the report will help to minimize your risk of UV-related eye damage:
- Make UV protection a crucial consideration when buying sunglasses.
- Look for lenses and frames designed for specific activities and lifestyles.
- Purchase sunglasses only from a reputable source and look for a label on the lens or frame indicating UVA and UVB protection.
“By highlighting the cumulative and irreversible damage UV overexposure can cause, we hope to encourage Americans to make UV-eye protection an everyday habit to preserve their eyesight,” said Mike Daley, CEO of the Vision Council.
Vision Council – “Spare Your Sight: Using Shades for Protection and Style”