cataracts

Protecting Your Eyes Year Round

By Lina Younes

Recently I took my mother to the ophthalmologist for her check-up.  She has developed several eye conditions related to the process of aging and to extended sun exposure. Cataracts and macular degeneration are just some of the conditions that can develop due to ultraviolet radiation and aging. Having spent most of her life in Puerto Rico it is very difficult to escape those powerful ultraviolet rays!  As far as I remember she has always worn sunglasses.  In her youth, it was mostly for fashion purposes. In her later years, she has been wearing prescription sunglasses. Yet the prolonged exposure to UV radiation has taken its toll on her eyes over the years.

Originally, I thought that you needed to protect your eyes mostly in the summertime. As I have read more on the issue, I’ve realized that since ultraviolet radiation does not “take a break” during the winter months, you really have to protect your eyes even if it’s cold and dreary outside.

Did you know that snow and ice absorb more light than water? Thus, you need to protect yourself from UV radiation in wintry conditions or while having fun on sunny slopes as well. Have you heard of the temporary disorder called snow blindness or photokeratitis? Do you recall the recent news story of the news reporter who became temporarily blind because he had actually sunburnt his eyes while out in the water for an extended time?

The fact is that we have to be more vigilant in order to protect our skin and eyes from ultraviolet radiation regardless of our complexion or the time of year. Do you have any sun safety tips that you would like to share with us?

About the author: Lina Younes has been working for EPA since 2002 and currently serves the Multilingual Outreach and Communications Liaison for EPA. She manages EPA’s social media efforts in Spanish. Prior to joining EPA, she was the Washington bureau chief for two Puerto Rican newspapers and she has worked for several government agencies.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Ultraviolet Radiation: Bring Out The Suntan Lotion, But What About Your Eyes?

By James Young

I thought that I could see reasonably well when I went to renew my driver’s license in December, 2007, at age 74. When I took the vision test I could barely see the objects in the vision box. I had to have my eyes examined. I made an appointment, but before my appointment date I drove to a conference in Philadelphia, PA. When we arrived in Center City we were on the lookout for our hotel. My wife could read the marquee two blocks away and I could not make out the name. I had to have two surgeries; a macular hole in my retina was repaired first, followed by cataract surgery two years later. Maryland licenses are now good for five years. Supposed I had gotten my license a year earlier, blindness would not have been seen lurking down the road.

Most of us are aware of the harm that Ultraviolet (UV) radiation can do to the skin, but may not realize that it also harms the eyes. Approximately 20.5 million Americans age, 40 and older, have cataracts, the leading cause of blindness worldwide. What is a cataract? It is a condition in which there is gradual clouding of the eyes’ natural crystalline lens. This lens assists with focusing onto the retina, which communicates images to the brain. Cataract extractions are the most common surgical procedure performed in the US, accounting for more than two million procedures each year.

There are plenty of opportunities for overexposure of UV rays to the eyes in most outdoor activities. Without the wrap-around sunglasses and a hat/cap the UV rays could reach your eyes. Consider golf, tennis, boating, fishing, skiing, baseball, driving with your sunroof open or convertible top down. Without adequate protection, you increase your chances of developing cataracts.

I was fortunate to catch my cataract in time and pass this information on to my children and grandchildren so that they can start early–protecting their eyes from the harmful rays of the summer sun.

About the author: James T. Young was a chemist at NIH for thirteen years before ending up a program analyst in the Public Health Service his last twelve years of government service. He has enjoyed being a SEE employee since 1995.

Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed in Greenversations are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.