Summer is here and you may see an increase in patients coming into your practice interested in sunglasses. Whether they are looking for stylish protection or something made to fit their prescription, this is an opportunity for you to convey to them a very important lesson: sunglasses should be worn year-round.
Your patients might believe that they only need to wear their protective sunwear when the sun is shining brightly, but this could not be further from the truth. According to the Vision Council, as many as 2 in 3 Americans do not wear their sunglasses when it is cloudy and 3 in 10 do not wear them in the winter. Contrary to popular belief, UV radiation is still a risk during these times.
In fact, your patients should be concerned with UV protection from more angles than just above. UV light is just as damaging when reflected off various surfaces. While water reflects all of the UV radiation from the sun’s rays, less obvious materials like concrete and grass can even reflect some. That’s right, your patients could be facing vision damage from light reflected off their lawns.
Knowing that this radiation is everywhere is only part of the struggle. Given that your patients may not know the realities of UV risks, it stands to reason they do not know the damage this radiation can do to their eyes. These are three of the biggest dangers your patients should be aware of.
Are your patients aware that their eyes can become sunburnt? This is common in highly reflective environments, such as near oceans, rivers, or mountains -- especially snow-covered mountains, hence the term “snow blindness.” It’s likely your patients don’t know the risk they take when they visit these natural and recreational havens and fail to protect their eyes.
Prolonged exposure to UV light at peak hours in these can also cause pterygium, or “surfer’s eye.” This pink growth over the whites of your patients’ eyes is not cancerous, but can be incredibly annoying and potentially become infected. Left untreated, it can cause astigmatism, blurred vision, and burning and itching sensations. It can require surgery and can happen at any age.
According to the Vision Source article linked in the last section, about 10% of cataracts are caused by overexposure to UV radiation. As cataracts can only be treated with surgery, and nearly half of British citizens over the age of 65 develop cataracts, proper eye protection can help prevent vision loss and medical expenses in the long run for your patients. Speaking of your elderly patients...
Age-Related Macular Degeneration
...it is possible that many of your patients with age-related macular degeneration, or AMD, have developed this condition because of a lifetime of UV exposure. What’s more, as noted in the Vision Council infographic linked above, as many of 65% of patients do not make this connection, despite growing evidence of this connection. By practicing better eye protection, your patients can avoid serious damage to their corneas and blindness later in life.
These are only a few of the biggest risks your patients face. If you have patients who spend a lot of time outdoors, this information can save them a lot of trouble down the road. Take the time to go over behaviors and strategies to protect them from UV damage such as wearing sunscreen and hats, seeking shade, and wearing their sunglasses whenever possible. It also helps to recommend sunglasses and regular spectacles made with materials that consistently block UV radiation like Trivex material.
Have your patients expressed concerns with UV radiation? Do they practice healthy outdoor eye care behaviors? Share your experiences in the comments!