The sun-filled month of July is the perfect time to raise awareness about the health and safety dangers of the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays. Most of us know about the damaging effects of the sun on our skin. But we also want to remind residents and their loved ones to take precautions to protect their eyes as well. The sun’s UV rays can penetrate the structures of your eyes and cause cell damage, says the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

The Dangers of UV Rays to Your Eyes
UV rays, a type of energy released by the sun, are invisible to the eye, yet they can cause eye problems, especially after years of unprotected exposure, according to Prevent Blindness, a national organization that advocates for eye health and safety. Long-term exposure to UV rays can lead to eye and vision-related disorders such as cataracts and macular degeneration (the primary causes of vision loss in seniors), as well as skin cancer around the eyelids.

Your Eyes’ Best Friend: A Good Pair of Sunglasses
The American Optometric Association recommends wearing quality sunglasses that offer UV protection and wearing a hat or cap with a wide brim whenever you spend time outdoors.

How do you choose sunglasses that will provide adequate protection for your eyes? Healthcare professionals choosing sunglasses that will do the following:

• reduce glare
• filter out 99 to 100 percent of UV rays; buy only glasses with tags or labels that clearly state the amount of UV radiation blocked
• fit well and stay close to your face (wraparound sunglasses offer the broadest UV protection because they block light that hits your eyes from the sides)

Be aware that your risk of eye damage from the sun is much greater when rays are being reflected off water or snow. If you’re planning an outing at the beach or lake, by the pool, or on the slopes, pack your best-quality sunglasses!