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Did youthful fun in the sun put you at risk for an eye condition now?

It’s never too late to protect your eyes against sun damage. Look for sunglasses that block 95% to 100% of both UVA and UVB rays.

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Excessive sun exposure can cause damage that shows up many years later.

You may not have known it then, but spending a lot of time in the sun without sunglasses when you were younger may have put you at risk for developing eye problems now that you’re older. “The damage would have been done in your 20s and 30s,” says Dr. Louis Pasquale, an ophthalmologist at Harvard-affiliated Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary. “It’s especially true if you spent time near the water, the beach, or snow. The sunlight bounces off of those surfaces and right into the eyes.”

The risks

Dr. Pasquale says we don’t know exactly how the sun’s ultraviolet rays cause eye damage. He also says it’s debated whether sunlight directly causes common eye conditions, such as cataracts (cloudy areas in the lens of the eye), glaucoma (marked by damage to the optic nerve, usually because of pressure in the eye); and age-related macular degeneration, or AMD (which gradually destroys the macula, the part of the eye that provides sharp central vision). But there’s good evidence that sun exposure can cause an eye condition that often leads to other problems. This condition is called exfoliation syndrome.

Exfoliation syndrome

Exfoliation syndrome leaves tiny dandruff-like flakes inside the body, mostly in the eye, where a buildup clogs the eye’s natural drains. That can lead to other problems. Worldwide, it is the most common identifiable cause of two kinds of glaucoma: secondary open-angle glaucoma and secondary closed-angle glaucoma. Exfoliation syndrome is also linked to cataracts and possibly to AMD.

Who gets exfoliation syndrome? “People who spent 10 hours a week in the sun seem to have a twofold risk of exfoliation syndrome compared with people who spent two or three hours a week in the sun,” says Dr. Pasquale. Other risk factors include European descent, family history, a lack of dietary folate, and five or more cups of coffee per day.

There are no symptoms of exfoliation syndrome until you start to lose your sight from other eye problems. And while there’s no cure, there are treatments for the other conditions that may result.

Early detection

The best way to stop exfoliation syndrome, glaucoma, AMD, and cataracts from robbing you of your vision is to discover these conditions before they progress. You can do that with a comprehensive eye exam. That involves dilating the eyes to open the pupils so the doctor can examine the back of the eye at the retina. The doctor will also check eye pressure, look at the structure and muscle function of the eye, and correct vision problems if necessary.

The American Academy of Ophthalmology recommends comprehensive eye exams every two to four years for people ages 40 to 55, every one to three years for people ages 55 to 65, and every one to two years for people ages 65 and older. People with risk factors for eye problems—for example, those with diabetes—may need more frequent eye exams.

What to look for in sunglasses

Go for UVA and UVB protection, and beware of false marketing promises.

It’s never too late to protect your eyes from the sun’s damaging rays. You don’t have to spend a bundle to get a good pair of sunglasses, but you do have to know what to look for in lenses. Most important: protection against ultraviolet rays, both UVA and UVB. You’ll want 95% to 100% blockage. You may also consider buying polarized lenses, which reduce the glare from water, sand, and snow.

But buyer beware: manufacturers aren’t required to disclose or guarantee UV protection. “You can’t be certain that an inexpensive pair of sunglasses from the drugstore will provide protection, even if it promises blockage on the label,” says Thomas Merrill, an optician at Harvard-affiliated Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary. “You may consider going to an optical store where you can be guided to select a good-quality product.” That doesn’t mean you need a pair of prescription sunglasses, but you do need expert advice, especially if you have eye damage.

If you wear prescription eyeglasses and don’t want to buy prescription sunglasses, you can buy a product that fits over your glasses. “This gives you protection from the top and sides, and it’s more comfortable for your eyes, especially if you’re on the water,” says Merrill. A pair runs about $50.

Posted by: Dr.Health

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