Prevent Blindness America Designates May UV Awareness Month

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CHICAGO—To educate the public on the importance of eye protection from the sun, Prevent Blindness America is urging the public to recognize May as Ultraviolet Awareness Month. The association has created a website offering free information on the dangers and prevention of UV damage, and recommends that measures of UV protection be taken to avoid damage to the eyes now as well as later in life.

According to PBA, UV-B radiation is absorbed mainly by the cornea and lens of the eye, causing damage to those tissues. UV-A light, though less dangerous, penetrates deep into the eye and may cause damage to the macula, the part of the retina responsible for sight in the center field of vision. Further, UV damage is cumulative and has been linked to eye problems including tumors, cataracts and macular degeneration.

“UV can cause immediate damage to the eyes, as is the case with a corneal sunburn, or cause damage that surfaces later in life,” said Hugh R. Parry, PBA president and CEO. “The key to healthy vision is to make eye protection part of our daily routine. We encourage everyone to make a committed effort to wear UV-blocking sunglasses year-round to help protect the gift of sight.”

Corneal sunburn, or photokeratitis, is a condition resulting from over exposure to UV-B. Those at risk include individuals who spend long hours on the beach, in the water or on ski slopes without proper eye protection. The condition, PBA said, can be painful and cause temporary loss of vision for up to two days. Also at greater risk for future eye problems are those who have had cataract surgery or retinal disorders, and those who take medicines such as tetracycline, sulfa drugs, birth control pills, diuretics or tranquilizers.

To prevent immediate and future damage to the eyes from UV light, PBA recommends both adults and children wear a wide-brimmed hat and proper UV-rated sunglasses. Sunglasses without UV protection shade the eyes but cause pupils to dilate allowing the absorption of more harmful rays, PBA said. The association also advises that although some contact lenses may offer UV protection, they do not protect the whole eye, or the skin around the eye.

For a full guide on the dangers of UV exposure and how to implement UV protection, visit preventblindness.org/uv or call (800) 331-2020.