Summer Eye Safety
By: Roger M. Kaldawy, M.D.
Milford Franklin Eye Center
We all use sunscreen to protect our skin, but don’t forget to protect your eyes as well. Summertime means more time spent outdoors, and studies show that exposure to bright sunlight may increase the risk of developing cataracts and growths on the eye, including cancer. The same risk applies when using tanning beds, so be sure to protect your eyes from indoor UV light as well. Sunlight reflected off sand and water can cause photokeratitis, the condition responsible for snow blindness, so beach- and pool-goers: Take note.
Independence Day is just around the corner. Your 4th of July holiday usually ends with enjoying professional fireworks and maybe even lighting a few of your own in the backyard. Before you light your first bottle rocket or sparkler, let’s talk about the dangers of fireworks and how to keep you and your loved ones safe.
Most firework injuries happen in a one-month span from late June to late July. Each year approximately 16000 people visit an emergency room because of a fireworks-related injury, and there are 18 deaths. The number of people sustaining minor injuries not requiring an ER visit is thought to be much higher. The most common injuries are to the hands and fingers, legs, head, face, ears and arms. Sometimes people pick up packs of fireworks at the grocery store thinking they’re safe because they’re small and don’t produce large displays. Often, these are the fireworks we give or use close to children. Consider the number of ER trips these common, “safer” fireworks cause each year. Many of us think the people most at risk of getting injured are those lighting the fuse, but bystanders are the most at risk. Those on the sidelines account for 65% of all ER visits for firework-related injuries.
Eye injuries caused by fireworks are very common and can have devastating effects. Your eyes are delicate, and any fireworks injury could potentially cause permanent damage. Sparks, flames, smoke, and flying pieces of debris are all hazards inherent in any display. The four most common eye injuries are: detached retina, scratches on the cornea, ruptured eyeball and burns. Any eye injury can lead to long-term vision problems or even blindness. If your eye has been hurt, seek medical attention right away. Please leave fireworks to the professionals and let’s all enjoy a safe 4th.
UV radiation, whether from natural sunlight or indoor artificial rays, can damage the eye’s surface tissues as well as the cornea and lens. Unfortunately, many people are unaware of the dangers UV light can pose. By wearing UV-blocking sunglasses, you can enjoy the summer safely while lowering your risk for potentially blinding eye diseases and tumors. It is important to start wearing proper eye protection at an early age to protect your eyes from years of ultraviolet exposure.
Everyone of any age and any degree of skin pigmentation is susceptible to UV damage. Children are particularly susceptible to UV damage. People with light colored eyes may have an increased risk of certain eye diseases tied to UV exposure, including eye cancer. Some studies show that people with certain eye diseases such as retinal dystrophy may be at greater risk for UV-related sun damage.
Cataract is a clouding of the eye’s lens. The lens must be clear in order to focus light properly onto the retina. Extensive exposure to the sun is one of the major reasons why we develop cataracts. Cataract surgery is by far the most common surgery performed in the United States.
According to a national Sun Safety Survey conducted by the American Academy of Ophthalmology, only about half of people who wear sunglasses say they check the UV rating before buying. The good news is that you can easily protect yourself. In order to be eye smart in the sun, the American Academy of Ophthalmology recommends the following:
Wear sunglasses labeled “100% UV protection”: Use only glasses that block both UV-A and UV-B rays and that are labeled either UV400 or 100% UV protection.
Choose wraparound styles so that the sun’s rays can’t enter from the side.
If you wear UV-blocking contact lenses, you’ll still need sunglasses.
Wear a hat along with your sunglasses; broad-brimmed hats are best.
Remember the kids: It’s best to keep children out of direct sunlight during the middle of the day. Make sure they wear sunglasses and hats whenever they are in the sun.
Know that clouds don’t block UV light: The sun’s rays can pass through haze and clouds. Sun damage to the eyes can occur any time of year, not just in summer.
Be extra careful in UV-intense conditions: Sunlight is strongest mid-day to early afternoon, at higher altitudes, and when reflected off of water, ice or snow.
By embracing these simple tips you and your family can enjoy the summer sun safely while protecting your vision …And if you have a cataract and it’s time for surgery, remember that new technologies exist to optimize vision and outcome: Bladeless laser cataract surgery is a major advancement in cataract treatment, is FDA approved and embraced by top Ophthalmologists in the US and around the world.
At Milford Franklin Eye Center, we offer in-house optical service with the best in UV protection sunglasses. And if you need cataract surgery, Dr. Kaldawy is proud to have been the first surgeon in the area and among the first in Massachusetts to offer bladeless laser assisted cataract surgery. We are happy to have been pioneers of this technology in our communities. We implant high quality premium lenses, with correction for distance, near and everything in between. Many cases of astigmatism are no longer a problem as these implants can now be offered even if you have astigmatism thanks to bladeless laser surgery. Our percentage of complications is one of the lowest in the Nation and is measured by independent sources. We operate in a state-of-the-art surgery center with door-to-door concierge service. 100% of the surgeries are performed under topical anesthesia, so only drops, no need for shots and their risks and no need for stitches. With 22 years of established experience and tens of thousands of procedures performed, we are happy to offer state-of-the-art medical and surgical eye care to our communities.
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