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UNF Spinnaker

Hater Blockers are hating on your eyes and your wallet

According to the US Environmental Protection Agency, Jacksonville’s UV index is 11+, putting us in the extreme category — the highest category on the scale.

And while we’re aware of the damage UV radiation has on our skin, we often overlook our eyes. But they, too, are victim to sun damage, which can lead to cancer and even blindness.

“UV exposure in Florida is the biggest cause of eye damage,” said Richard Hillyard, a licensed optician at Nicoltz, a Jacksonville eye clinic. “And that’s probably the biggest cause for everyone.”

Not everyone lives by the beach, though; reflective surfaces like sand and water are especially harmful to the eyes. A day at the beach without sunglasses could cause a temporary and painful burn to the cornea called Photokeratitis. Reflections off snow and concrete and exposure to artificial light sources such as tanning beds can also cause it, according to epa.gov.

Prolonged UV radiation increases the risk of other, more permanent damage like cataracts, Pterygium and skin cancer around the eyelids.

Cataracts are the result of gradually accumulating damage to the proteins of the lens, which becomes fogged and cause a loss of vision. Only expensive surgery can cure cataracts.

Ptergium is a tissue growth on the cornea which could spread to cover the pupil, affecting vision. Ptergium is more common in sunny climates among 20- to 40-yearolds; surgery can also remove it.

More information about these diseases can be found at nei.nih.gov.

There are ways to prevent eye damage, though. Hillyard provided a list of ways we can protect our eyes from UV radiation.

“Wear sunglasses and wear hats. Even if you aren’t wearing sunglasses, wear some sort of lens with ultraviolet protection in them … teardrops and routine vision care with your eye doctor help, too.”

Not all sunglasses are created equal, though. It’s a common misconception that the darker the tint, the better the protection. The fact is, sunglasses without UV radiation protection can actually cause more harm to your eyes than good. The tint allows your pupils to dilate, letting
more sunlight into your eye and without UV protection, all the harmful radiation that comes with it.

“If they [sunglasses] are not UV protected, let’s say they just use a lens and they don’t add the additional protection and it’s only 70 percent [UV protected], you are dilating the eye a little bit so you’re going to get some damage because there’s 30 percent of the damage getting through,”
Hillyard said.

Clear lenses can also block UV radiation.

“I can build you a pair of non-tinted lenses with 100 percent protection, but it’s just going to be bright,” Hillyard said.

Standard prescription eyeglasses can also be treated with a material that provides UV protection while retaining a clear, non-tinted appearance. Most rigid contact lenses also provide UV protection — but because contact lenses don’t cover the entire eye, it’s still important to wear sunglasses when outdoors, even when it’s overcast.

The good news is that sunglasses don’t have to be expensive to protect your eyes and can usually be found at the local drugstore. And high prices don’t necessarily guarantee the best protection.

“You can get a $5 pair of sunglasses that have 100 percent UV protection or a $500 pair, as long as they both have 100 percent [UV protection] they are equally protected,” Hillyard said.

E-mail Emily Hartford and Chance Ryan at
[email protected].

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