Vision wellness

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Eye health information during COVID-19

At BCBS FEP Vision, our first concern is always the health and wellbeing of our members. During times like these, we find that members are seeking information and turn to trusted organizations like ours for guidance. Here are some answers to questions related to COVID-19 and eye health.

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How Can Vitamin D Deficiency Negatively Impact Eye Health?

Vitamin D is an essential nutrient the body needs for many vital processes. It promotes healthy bones and teeth, regulates insulin levels, benefits the immune system, and supports lung function, cardiovascular health, and brain and nervous system health.5 Vitamin D also plays a vital role in protecting against conditions such as heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, some types of cancer, multiple sclerosis, and infections and immune system disorders.1 Vitamin D is also critical for eye health. From improving tear function to reducing the risk of macular degeneration, cataracts, and glaucoma, vitamin D has a positive effect on eyesight in many ways.3 Vitamin D deficiency Vitamin D deficiency is when there is insufficient vitamin D in the body. This is often due to lack of sunlight exposure, inadequate dietary sources and malabsorption. A lack of vitamin D has been associated with cancer, immune disorders, heart disease, high blood pressure, osteoporosis, bone pain, depression, asthma, multiple sclerosis, and even dementia. Being deficient in Vitamin D can also have a negative impact on eye health. Vitamin D deficiency has been associated with conditions such as age-related macular degeneration, diabetic retinopathy, uveitis, dry eye syndrome and impaired tear function.3 Vitamin D deficiency is a global problem affecting an estimated 1 billion individuals. Nearly 42% of all adults in the U.S. are vitamin D deficient and some experts believe those numbers could be even higher.1 There are many influencing factors that may lead to lower vitamin D levels. Below are some of the risk factors for vitamin D deficiency. Risk factors for vitamin D deficiency: Individuals over the age of 65 years Insufficient sunlight exposure Being overweight or obese Diet lacking fish or dairy Medication use that alters vitamin D metabolism Sedentary lifestyle Signs and symptoms of vitamin D deficiency may include:1 Regular sickness or infection Fatigue Bone pain Muscle weakness, muscle aches or cramps Low mood Hair loss Best sources of vitamin D Getting adequate sunlight is the best way to help the body produce enough vitamin D. Experts suggest getting 10-30 minutes per day, several times a week to maintain healthy blood levels. This time may fluctuate depending on how sensitive your skin is to sunlight.9 Certain foods can also be good sources of vitamin D such as: Fish: fatty fish, such as salmon, sardines, mackerel, and tuna Nuts and seeds: almonds, Brazil nuts, pumpkin seeds and sesame seeds Fruits and vegetables: avocado, mushrooms, dark leafy vegetables such as spinach and collard greens Egg yolks Beef liver Dairy: cheese, fortified milk, yogurt Fortified cereals and juices Diagnosing vitamin D deficiency It may be difficult to determine if you have a vitamin D deficiency. However, if you think you may be deficient, it is important to discuss any concerns or symptoms with your primary care physician who will order the appropriate testing. References: https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/articles/15050-vitamin-d–vitamin-d-deficiency https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/21310306/ https://yoursightmatters.com/vitamin-d-protect-aging-eyes/ https://www.aafp.org/afp/2009/1015/p841.html https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/wellness-and-prevention/vitamin-d-and-the-heart https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3068797/ https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/161618#risks https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3068797/ https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/326167#vitamin-d-and-the-sun

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How to avoid surprise bills

Do you have a vision care visit in the near future for yourself or a loved one? If so, you’ll want to get the most out of your Blue Cross and Blue Shield FEP Vision coverage. That means choosing an in-network provider for your care.

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Focusing on blindness

According to the World Health Organization, there are more than 2.2 billion individuals worldwide with vision impairment or blindness. In the U.S. alone, blindness or low vision affects more than 4.2 million Americans.

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Children and digital eye strain

For a majority of parents, the 2020-2021 school year will begin virtually. According to Education Week, 39 of the 50 largest school districts are choosing remote learning as their back-to-school instructional model, affecting over 6.1 million students in the United States.

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National Eye Exam Month

Routine Eye Exams Are Important at All Ages

Routine eye exams are an important and effective form of preventative medicine for all age groups. Whether someone is eight or 80, eye exams are critical for vision and eye health, as well as offering a way to identify myriad other health conditions.

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Healthy eating tips that support eye health

Did you know that adding certain nutrients to your diet can help preserve your vision and improve eye health? Research conducted by the National Eye Institute (NEI) confirmed that certain variations of nutrients such as vitamin C, vitamin E, beta-carotene, Omega-3 fatty acids, lutein, and zeaxanthin, and zinc may help preserve vision and reduce the risk of certain eye diseases.

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Common eye problems in children

Healthy eyes and vision are an essential part of a child’s development. There are many different eye conditions and diseases that can affect a child’s vision, which is why regular eye checks and vision screenings should be a part of your child’s medical care.

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Digital eye strain

With the increasing use of digital devices, many individuals suffer from eye discomfort after prolonged screen use (more than two hours). This is known as digital eye strain.

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Pet allergies can make your eyes miserable

Our pets are often our best friends – unless we are allergic to them. Approximately 62 percent of Americans have pets, and 15 to 30 percent of Americans suffer from pet allergies, according to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation. That’s a lot of red, itchy eyes!

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Close up of a woman's eye

What is conjunctivitis?

Conjunctivitis, also known as “pink eye,” is a common eye disease. It is called “pink eye” because it can cause the white of the eye to become pink or red. It occurs when there is an irritation or inflammation of the conjunctiva.

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Protect your eyes when using cleaning agents and hair dyes

During these challenging times, many of us are focused on keeping our homes clean and free from germs, including the COVID-19 virus. We may be using certain cleaning agents for the first time. It’s important to remember that these contain chemicals that can cause irritation and injury to your eyes, especially when used in areas that are not well ventilated. Exposure to chemical fumes is just as dangerous as splatter into the eye.

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Woman with mask looking at foggy glasses

4 helpful ways to prevent your face mask from fogging your glasses

During these unprecedented times, most of us are following the CDC guidelines for wearing face masks in public to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 virus. However, for the 64 percent of Americans who wear glasses – and countless others who wear sunglasses – this new public health mandate comes with an unexpected consequence: foggy lenses.

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The value of vision care

75% of Americans need some form of vision correction1. Get a better understanding of the widespread need of vision care, the impact it has on the economy and how routine vision plays a critical role in the early detection of many chronic health conditions.

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Women’s eye health and safety

There are many healthcare issues specific to women, and eye health is no exception. Women have higher rates of eye diseases such as cataracts, glaucoma and age-related macular degeneration. They also have a higher prevalence of dry eye and may experience changes in vision related to pregnancy and menopause.

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Why are more consumers purchasing eyewear online

Technology has had a profound impact on nearly every aspect of our daily lives, especially how we shop. Over the past decade, the percentage of eCommerce sales has grown by double digits each year, and it’s not slowing down, according to eMarketer.

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A fishy solution to dry eye

It’s painful, frustrating, and affects nearly five million Americans age 50 and older, 60 percent of whom are women—particularly menopausal women. We are talking about dry eye.

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Safe toys and celebrations

According to Prevent Blindness America, children sustain approximately 11,000 toy-related eye injuries each year. Most toy-related eye injuries are treated, have no long-term effects, and are easily preventable.

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Diabetic eye disease

Regular eye exams can lead to early prevention, detection, or treatment of several health concerns. Below are three health issues that can be detected by an eye exam.

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Costume contacts safety

In order to safely wear decorative contacts during Halloween or when dressing up throughout the year, the American Academy of Ophthalmology recommends following these guidelines.

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Fireworks eye safety

Each year, thousands of Americans visit emergency rooms for fireworks-related injuries. Thirty-five percent of those injured are under the age of 15. Regulations have helped make fireworks safer, though inherently they remain potentially hazardous.

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Kids playing football

Sports eye safety

Each sport has its own unique risks of eye injury and requires its own type of protective eyewear, which is why the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) sets the standard for sports eye protection.

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Yoga for the eyes

Yoga is a wonderful exercise for both flexibility and stress reduction. But did you know it can also benefit your eyes and vision? Our newest infographic shows you three yoga exercises for your eyes that can relieve eyestrain and support overall eye health.

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Navigating the Insurance Lexicon

Insurance can be tricky place to navigate. Much like any field or discipline, it has its own set of terminology. The following list will help you to navigate the insurance lexicon so you can better understand your vision and eye care benefits.

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How diabetes affects your vision

Diabetes is a disease affecting your pancreas, which also affects the blood sugar and insulin levels in your body. Not only does diabetes affect your pancreas, but it also systemically affects your entire body.

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How to read your eyeglass prescription

If you suffer from certain eye problems, your doctor may prescribe eyeglasses to help with your eyesight. However, your prescription for eyeglasses contains numbers and abbreviated words that you may not be able to understand.

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What to expect in a checkup eye exam

An eye exam consists of an array of tests carried out by an eye care professional or specialist who examines your vision and ability to focus on distinguishing objects. It is inclusive of all check-ups and analysis pertaining to the eye.

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Pets and Vision: Why Some Pets Cause Eye Irritation

A pet is the best friend you can have – unless you’re allergic to one. Have you experienced eye irritation after contact with pets? Or maybe after entering a room with pets? In the United States, pet allergies are common. Approximately 15 to 30% of Americans suffer from pet allergies according to a study by Asthma and Allergy Foundation. Although cat allergies are more common, dog allergies are more severe. It’s estimated that 62% of American households have pets, and 10% of the populace have animal allergies. As such, a significant number of people are affected. Do pets cause eye irritation? Pets can cause eye discomfort directly and indirectly. Usually, the body’s immune system fights foreign substances, like viruses and bacteria. Pets carry eye allergens including dander, urine, pollen and saliva that can irritate the eyes. Symptoms of pet-related eye irritation Burning or itchy eyes Watery eyes Red or pink eyes Swollen or puffy eyelids Causes of pet related eye irritation 1. Pet dander Pet dander (dead skin cells) is a leading cause of pet related eye irritation. The eyes become itchy, red and watery after entering a room where pets stay or after coming in contact with them. Additionally, the National Institutes of Health unraveled that detectable amounts of dander can be found in every home. Dander is one of the most common and stubborn allergens. Dogs, cats and feathered pets generate dander. Dead skin cells have microscopic dander-like flakes of proteins and skin from urine and saliva that are responsible for triggering eye discomfort. Pet dander gets worse as pets age. That implies that dander from old pets are worse than those from younger pets. Dander gets ferried through the air until it enters the mucous membranes in the eyes and lungs. One or both eyes can be affected. In some instances, these symptoms can be accompanied by sneezing, running nose or congestion. Eye irritation is caused by the body’s immune system by classifying harmless substances as allergens. As a result, production of IgE antibodies is triggered attacking the allergen as if it’s bacteria or virus. 2. Pet saliva Pet saliva contains proteins and allergens that can cause eye irritation. When pets chew, lick or drool household items or people, the allergens become airborne.  Your eyes become exposed to these allergens when you come in direct contact with your pet or when you touch your eye afterwards. To manage such irritation, avoid touching your face or eyes immediately after interacting with your pet. Cats are more likely to spread irritants in their saliva because they groom their fur frequently. 3. Pet urine Cat and dog urine have a sharp ammonia smell. Extreme exposure to ammonia can cause eye irritation. Pet urine becomes entrenched in carpets, furniture, and baseboards posing risks to you and your loved ones. Low concentrations of ammonia from urine can cause rapid eye irritation. Prolonged exposure can lead to permanent eye damage, and blindness. In fact, children are more susceptible to eye problems from ammonia inhalation. 4. Pollen, mold and dust When pets wander outside, they may carry dust, mold and pollen allergens that cause eye irritation. In fact, most people tend to mistake pollen allergies as dog allergies. Solutions to pet-related eye irritation If you are visiting homes with pets, kindly request the owners to keep pets in a separate room or area if you’re spending a few days there. When returning home from your visit, pet dander may still be present from the carried on luggage and clothes. Therefore, it is wise to wash clothes and wipe down luggage once you have returned home from traveling. What if you have pets at home? Keep pets out of your bedroom if you are allergic. Also, avoid hugging, petting and kissing your pet and limit the number of rooms they can access. It’s also wise to use a central air cleaner to minimize blowing allergens throughout the house. Place your cat’s litter box away from vents or choose a place not connected to your central air. For those who experience eye irritation after interacting with pet birds, avoid using feather pillows and down comforters. Most importantly, avoid touching your eyes and face after coming in contact with pets. For those using contact lenses, it’s imperative to observe proper eye hygiene to prevent eye irritation. Pet related eye irritation is a common challenge. Some of them are caused by animal allergies while others are not. Fortunately, eye discomfort can be managed with good hygiene, proper pet management, eye drops, allergy shots and antihistamines. Sources http://www.aafa.org/page/pet-dog-cat-allergies.aspx https://www.aaaai.org/conditions-and-treatments/allergies/pet-allergy

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Fireworks Safety Tips

Each year, thousands of Americans visit emergency rooms for fireworks-related injuries. 35% of those injured are under the age of 151. Regulations have helped make fireworks safer, though inherently they remain potentially hazardous. Firecrackers Firecrackers can cause eye injuries if they erupt at close range. Someone inspecting a firecracker that failed to go off could be the victim of a delayed explosion. Bottle rockets Bottle rockets are responsible for some of the most serious eye injuries. These fireworks fly erratically and then explode. They can cause everything from eyelid lacerations to total blindness. Be a spectator The safest way to enjoy fireworks is to attend a public display conducted by trained pyrotechnicians. Prevent Blindness America, the American Academy of Ophthalmology and the National Fire Protection Association agree that it’s best to leave firework shows to the professionals. Sparklers Sparklers can burn at up to 1,800°F, hot enough for third-degree burns. In the dark, it can be difficult to determine the distance between the end of a lit sparkler and a person’s face. Sources 1Tu, Y., & Granados, D. V. (2015, June). 2014 Fireworks Annual Report. Retrieved from CPSC: https://www.cpsc.gov/Global/Research-and-Statistics/Injury-Statistics/Fuel-Lighters-and-Fireworks/Fireworks_Report_2014.pdf

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Virtual Reality (VR) Headsets and Your Vision

Imagine this – you’re looking out toward the ocean, watching the waves hit the shoreline. A few crabs scuttle across your periphery and you notice a sand dollar. As you bend over to pick it up, your hand hits a hard wooden object and you remember you are in a virtual world, sitting in front of a living room table. Recent technological advancements have ushered in the age of virtual reality (VR). This new technology allows users to experience fully-immersive worlds and games from the comfort of their own homes. As fun and exciting as VR may be, there are certain aspects of our vision that should be taken into account before exploring far off planets or taking a trip to the Sahara. Lenses are used in VR headsets in order to focus and reshape the image for each eye. First, let’s get into the details of what VR actually is and how it works. VR works by tracking the movement of one’s head and replicating this movement in a computer-generated environment, seen on-screen. The computer image is either split up into two different feeds on the same screen or displayed on two smaller screens, which are offset relative to the left and right eyes to provide the illusion of depth. The screen is either embedded into a headset that you can wear, or can be a smaller screen, such as your phone screen, that is inserted into a pair of goggles that one holds up to look through. Lenses are used in VR headsets in order to focus and reshape the image for each eye. Because VR is a relatively new technology, there are few long-term studies which convey any danger(s) in using VR headsets. Some minor side-effects do arise during short-term use which is why vision experts stress the importance of following the 20/20/20 rule in order to avoid eye strain. This rule advises to take a break viewing after 20 minutes and refocus your eyes on an object 20 feet away for 20 seconds to “stretch” your eyes, so to speak. One of the other side-effects that can affect your VR experience is motion sickness and dizziness. While not directly affecting your vision, this is mainly caused by viewing graphics in motion. Your body can become slightly disoriented and you may start to feel nauseous as your brain interprets the fast-moving visuals as real movement. If you are not prone to motion sickness, you may opt to try VR experiences with little-to-no motion or possibly not at all. Blue light is the highest energy wavelength of visible light Blue light can also be a factor with VR. Blue light is emitted from electronics such as our phone screens, computer monitors and television screens. Blue light is the highest energy wavelength of visible light which is able to penetrate through the eyes’ natural filters. Increased exposure can cause permanent damage to the eyes over time as effects are cumulative and can lead to conditions such as macular degeneration. Remember to schedule an annual eye exam to take a preventative step in keeping your eyes healthy and ask your provider about special lenses and coatings that can help block out some of the damaging effects of blue light. You can learn more about blue light here. VR is a prime example of what the cutting  edge of technology has to offer. Although there are a few concerns with regard to vision safety, there are also some great applications for which it is being tested, such as our own Vision Simulator. Scientists are applying VR technology in order to help those with diminutive vision capabilities in order to help them see again. VR capabilities have only launched to the public in recent years leaving the door wide open for limitless possibilities in the future. Sources: bluelightexposed.com/protect-our-vision/ https://lasikomaha.com/virtual-reality-headsets-bad-eyes/ https://venturebeat.com/2015/04/18/were-not-talking-about-what-vr-is-doing-to-our-eyes-and-our-brains/ https://essilorusa.com/newsroom/virtual-reality-bad-fo-the-eye/

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Back-to-School Vision Tips

With school just around the corner, your child’s annual eye exam should be a priority. Vision is one of the most important factors in learning and development.

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Kids and Computer Eye Strain

There has been a marked increase in the number of children diagnosed with myopia in the past 10 years, and it is suspected that Computer Vision Syndrome (CVS) is the cause.

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Popular lens options

Eyeglass wearers have many lens options available to them that will enhance their comfort and provide added vision benefits. The listing below details some of the most popular options and explains how they can help you experience the best results from your new eyeglasses. Talk to your eye care professional today to find out more!

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Polarized sunglasses

You already know that when you buy prescription sunglasses to protect your eyes and to improve your vision at the same time, you want lenses that block 100 percent of the sun’s harmful UV rays.

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The ABC’s on Ultraviolet Radiation (UV)

With the arrival of summer come all the outdoor activities many of us look forward to. This in return equates to more exposure to the sun. We are all very aware of the damaging effects sunlight has our skin, but what about our eyes? The sun emits invisible, high energy rays called ultraviolet radiation (UV). This ultraviolet radiation serves no visual purpose and provides no benefit to the eyes; in fact, most Americans don’t recognize the important role of UV protection to prevent damage and visual impairment. A recent American Eye-Q® survey by the American Optometric Association’s stated only 47% of Americans believed UV protection is the most important factor when purchasing sunglasses. “Whether it’s a cloudy or sunny day, summer or winter, eyes, just like sun, need to be protected from the sun’s UV rays in order to decrease the risk of diseases and disorders” said Fraser Horn, O.D., a member of the AOA’s Sports Vision Council. It’s long been known that UV radiation from the sun can harm eyes. Now Prevent Blindness America (PBA) is raising awareness about the link between depletion of the Earth’s ozone layer- which blocks some UV light from penetrating the Earth’s atmosphere- and cataracts that are caused by prolonged exposure to UV light. Children’s eyes are also very susceptible to UV damage because the crystalline lenses in their eyes are more transparent to UV light than adults. With children receiving up to three times more sun exposure than adults, parents should be proactive in protecting their child’s vision from UV rays. When spending time outdoors it is important to not only apply UV blocking sunscreen to your skin but also around the eye area, and to wear sunglasses or contact lenses that offer adequate UV protection. Your vision is priceless and it is important that you maintain your visual wellness by scheduling a yearly comprehensive eye exam with your optometrist or ophthalmologist.

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Common Childhood Vision Problems

It’s important to understand what common vision problems are with children so that they can see their best. Below is a list of questions and answers surrounding the most popular vision concerns for kids.

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Eyeglass Basics

We’ve created this simple guide to educate and help you better understand the types of lenses and wide assortment of lens options that are available.

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Sun worshipers, beware!

After a long, frozen winter, we cheer when the sun finally begins to warm the Earth. But beware of the power of this life-giving, dazzling star! As we spend more time outdoors at beaches, ballgames, parks and pools, the sun’s constant UV (ultraviolet) light radiation can damage our eyes. Over time, too much UV exposure can lead to cataracts or macular degeneration, leading causes of vision loss among seniors. The sun can also cause skin cancer around the eyelids, abnormal growths on the surface of the eye and even (though rarely) sunburn of the eye. UV-A rays penetrate the most deeply, causing the skin to tan and doing the most long-term damage to both eyes and skin. UV-B is the shorter ultraviolet light wavelength that causes burns to the skin and the front of the eye. When skin is left unprotected, we may develop painful sunburn; when eyes go unprotected, however, we remain largely unaware of the harm being done. Eye damage from long-term exposure to the sun’s UV rays is so gradual that it is not felt. This underscores the importance of protecting our eyes when outdoors. Scientists have found a link between development of cataracts and depletion of the Earth’s ozone layer. Test your sun smarts We all know the value of guarding against sunburn and skin cancer by slathering on sunscreen, and most of us wear sunglasses in summer to shield our eyes from glare. When it comes to preserving eyesight over the long term, however, many of us have misconceptions about the sun’s dangers. Do you know the facts behind these myths? Myth #1: Sunglasses are not necessary in winter.Fact: The damaging effects of UV rays are present during winter as well as summer. Sunglasses with UV protection are necessary whenever you spend time outdoors during daylight hours, all year round. Myth #2: On overcast days, UV rays are not harmful.Fact: Just because the sun is not glaring brightly does not mean its UV rays are not affecting the eyes. If there’s daylight, UV rays are present. They penetrate through haze and clouds, and reflect off water, white sand, pavement and snow. Myth #3: Our eyesight deteriorates with age simply because we get older.Fact: This is true to some extent, but the fact is that a lifetime of exposure to UV light increases the likelihood of developing macular degeneration, cataracts and other eye conditions. There is scientific evidence of a link between development of cataracts and depletion of the Earth’s ozone layer, which allows more unfiltered UV light to reach us. If we protect our eyes, however, our chances of maintaining good eye health into old age are greatly increased. Myth #4: Adults’ eyes are at a higher risk of sun damage than children’s.Fact: Just the opposite is true. Children’s eyes are especially vulnerable to sun damage because they are still developing. Their pupils are larger, allowing in more light, and the lenses of their eyes are more transparent. They also spend more time outdoors than most adults. Brief but intense UV contact may cause corneal sunburn, the most immediate danger to children’s eyes from sun overexposure. No long-term damage results, but it can be painful for a few days. Myth #5: Only the sun emits ultraviolet light.Fact: Artificial light sources, such as tanning beds and welding machines, also produce UV radiation and require eye protection during use. Remember: Shades, Hat, Veggies Here are the best ways to protect your eyes: When spending time outdoors, wear protective eyewear, such as Transitions® lenses or polarized sunglasses, that blocks 99 to 100 percent of UV-A and UV-B rays. Wear a wide-brimmed hat or cap, which will block about half of UV rays. Children’s eyes are especially vulnerable to sun damage because they are still developing. Remember that UV rays reflect off bright surfaces such as water, snow, white sand and pavement, making it critical—especially for children—to wear sunglasses and hats in the snow or at the beach, swimming pool or playground. Always wear protective goggles when using a tanning bed or welding machine. Eat a healthy diet. There is scientific evidence that a diet rich in brightly colored fruits and vegetables helps reduce the risk of sun damage to your eyes. Many bright summer days are ahead. Enjoy outdoor activities safely by protecting your eyes—and those of your children—from the sun! Source: Prevent Blindness America, American Optometric Association, Vision Monday, U.S. News & World Report, The Canadian Press

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