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Can the sun cause cataracts?

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Protecting your eyes from the sun is essential, especially during the summer when UV rays are strongest. The World Health Organization estimates that up to 20% of cataracts worldwide may be caused by overexposure to UV radiation. Additional research has found links between UV exposure and the formation of other chronic eye conditions, including cataracts and skin cancers around the eye.

Learn how to protect your vision and help prevent the early development of cataracts with the tips below. Cataracts are a normal part of aging, but with so many treatment options, they don't have to get in the way of doing the things you love.

How UV Rays Affect Your Vision

UVA and UVB radiation are known to damage nearly all body parts, but they can be especially harmful to your vision. Ocular damage from UV rays is irreversible and can result in conditions like macular degeneration, cataracts, corneal damage and more.

Given that our eyelids consist of the thinnest skin on our bodies, UV damage can also result in dryness, wrinkles and pigmentation damage around the eye. In addition, conditions like age-related macular degeneration are a leading cause of blindness for Americans over age 55. Unfortunately, there is no cure for these damaging impacts, so it is important to be aware of ways to protect your eyes from the sun as soon as possible.

UV Rays and Cataracts

Overexposure to UV radiation increases the risk of developing cataracts, which impacts the eye’s ability to focus on light. Cataracts are the leading cause of vision loss in the United States and consist of a clouding of the normally clear lens of the eye.

In the early stages of cataract development, the condition is hard to notice. However, as you age, cataract symptoms can impact your daily life and ability to do the things you love. They may make it harder to see or drive at night or cause symptoms like blurry vision, double vision or extreme sensitivity to glare and light.

Tips to Protect Your Vision This Summer

The first step to lowering risk is wearing UV-blocking sunglasses and brimmed hats. Consider wrap-around sunglasses to protect your peripheral vision and prevent possible glare as well. Make sure to check that your sunglasses are rated with UVA/UVB protection.

The sun’s strongest points of the day are from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., so avoid prolonged exposure to UV rays during this time. Always wear sunscreen and reapply regularly. Be sure to practice these tips year-round, as UV damage to the eyes can occur outside of the summer months — especially here in Florida, where the sun is always shining.

Don’t Skip Your Annual Eye Exam

One of the best ways to protect your sight is to schedule an annual eye exam with your eye doctor. They can ensure that your eyes stay healthy and identify any complications at their earliest stages. If you suspect that you may be suffering from cataracts or UV damage, schedule an appointment today.

S. Akbar Hasan, M.D., is a Ponte Vedra Beach resident and ophthalmologist at Florida Eye Specialists. For more information on Dr. Hasan and his specialty treating cataracts, visit FloridaEyeSpecialists.com or call 904-780-9690.

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