| Wed, Oct 01, 2014 @ 09:00 AM

Shield Your Eyes from Sun Damage

Posted by Medicare Made Clear

sun damageJust because we’re transitioning into winter doesn’t mean you can toss aside your shades. Whether you live in the mountains or near the coast, your eyes may still be at risk for sun damage.

The Dangers of Ultraviolet Rays

Sunlight, heat and Ultraviolet (UV) rays are the three types of radiation released from the sun. UV rays can cause sunburn and damage to the skin and eyes. The UV rays that reflect off snow and water — and in particular, the UV rays from sunbeds — are dangerous and can cause eye problems or vision loss. Prolonged exposure to UV rays may also increase the risk of getting skin cancer.

Most people have some degree of risk of eye damage from UV rays. However, people who work outside or spend a lot of time in the sun are at greater risk. And people who take certain medications, such as tetracycline, sulfa drugs, diuretics or tranquilizers; or have had certain types of cataract surgery are at even greater risk.

There are two types of UV rays: UV-A rays, which can damage the macula, a part of the retina at the back of the eye; and UV-B rays, which can damage the cornea and lens at the front of the eye. UV-ray exposure can lead to a number of other eye problems, including:

  • Cataracts
  • Macular degeneration
  • Pterygium
  • Corneal sunburn
  • Skin cancer of the eyelids

Protect Your Peepers

There are steps you can take to help protect your eyes against sun damage. The American Academy of Ophthalmology suggests you do the following1:

  • Wear sunglasses that offer 100 percent UV protection and make sure they block both UV-A and UV-B rays.
  • Choose wrap-around styles. Ideally, your sunglasses should wrap all the way around to your temples, so the sun’s rays can’t enter from the side.
  • Wear a hat with a three-inch brim in addition to your sunglasses.
  • When at the beach or in the water, remember that UV light reflected off sand, water or pavement can also damage the eyes.
  • Be aware that certain medications you are taking may cause increased sensitivity to sunlight (photosensitivity). Be sure to ask your doctor.
  • Even if you wear contact lenses with UV protection, remember to wear your sunglasses.
  • Don’t be fooled by clouds. The sun’s rays can pass through haze and clouds.
  • Indoor tanning is worse than outdoor. Tanning beds can produce UV levels up to 100 times stronger than the sun’s rays.

If you notice any changes in your vision or in the appearance of your eyes, see an eye doctor immediately.

If you are new to Medicare, you may be entitled to a “Welcome to Medicare” preventive visit that screens for vision loss risk factors. The visit is available only once and only within the first 12 months you have Medicare Part B.

For more information, explore MedicareMadeClear.com or contact the Medicare helpline 24 hours a day, seven days a week at 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227), TTY 1-877-486-2048.

Resources:

Medicare Benefits and Your Eyes: Prevent Blindness America®

How Sunlight Damages the Eyes: Skin Cancer Foundation

Medicare Advantage Plans = Original Medicare + Extra Benefits: MedicareMadeClear.com

1 American Academy of Ophthalmology: Overexposure to Sun’s Rays Can Cause Painful, Temporary Blindness, June 3, 2013

2 Prevent Blindness®: Protect Your Eyes from the Sun; PreventBlindness.org

 

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