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By Kevin Damask, staff writer with the Wisconsin Council of the Blind & Visually Impaired

While we enjoy the long, warm days of July, it’s important to stay protected from the sun’s powerful rays.

Too much exposure to the sun can cause damage to both eyes and skin. The sun releases energy (radiation) in many forms, including ultraviolet rays. UV rays can cause sunburn and damage vision.

There are two types of UV rays: A and B. Long-term exposure to UVA rays can affect central vision. The macula, part of the retina at the back of the eye, can become damaged. UVB rays often injure the front portion of the eye where the cornea and lens are located.

Amy Wurf, Certified Low Vision Therapist with the Wisconsin Council of the Blind & Visually Impaired, said UV light could be described as an invisible threat because it’s not visible to the human eye.

“We should protect our eyes from UV light as much as we can,” Wurf said. “Look for tags on sunglasses that state they block 99-100 percent of UVA and UVB light. Wraparound sunglasses can be purchased to wear alone or fit over prescription glasses. These types of sunglasses protect the eyes from UV rays entering around the frames. Polarized lenses reduce glare, but they should not take the place of UV protection. They may include UV protection, but it’s important to check the tag to be sure.”

UV rays can lead to several eye diseases, including macular degeneration, cataract, and diabetic retinopathy. Macular degeneration is a leading cause of vision loss among older Americans, while cataracts are often formed from the effects of UVB rays.

“These eye conditions can cause people to experience discomfort with light sensitivity and create issues with glare,” Wurf said. “Filters that reduce overall light transmission and protect the eyes from UV rays manage the light that reaches the eyes to maximize functional vision. Reducing glare and increasing contrast can increase safe mobility and provide relief from light sensitivity.”

The good news is wearing sunglasses can be a simple and relatively inexpensive way to safeguard your eyes.

The Sharper Vision Store, located at the Council office, features the latest styles, colors and sizes in sunglasses, all with proper UV protection.

Sharper Vision Store Manager Brent Perzentka highlighted two frames, the Noir Filter glasses, which offer UV, invisible and infrared protection to manage light and maximize functional vision. Noir Filters are available in fit-over and wrap-around styles.

“We recommend you visit a low vision specialist before purchasing your first pair of filters,” Perzentka said. 

Solar 3 Wrap-Around sunglasses come in four different tints and can be worn as “wear-alones.” All Solar 3 filters are designed to block 100 percent of UVA or UVB rays.

Wurf said wearing a hat or visor can provide additional protection.

“Remember it’s also important for children to wear sunglasses that provide UV protection,” Wurf said.

For more information on sunglasses or any product at the Sharper Vision Store, contact Perzentka at 608-237-8105 or go to www.wcblind.org/shopping.