AAO names July UV safety awareness month

June 24, 2008

Eyes exposed to ultraviolet light (UV) rays are more at risk for cataracts, age-related macular degeneration, and growths, including cancer. To make the public more aware of this risk, the American Academy of Ophthalmology has made July UV Safety Awareness month.

San Francisco-According to studies, exposure to sunlight may increase the risk of cataracts, age-related macular degeneration, and growths on the eye, including cancer. To make the public more aware of this risk, the American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO) has made July UV (ultraviolet light) Safety Awareness month, and through its EyeSmart campaign will remind people of the importance of protecting one's eyesight both indoors, when using tanning beds, and outdoors.

"Protecting your eyes from the sun is as important as protecting your skin," said J. Alberto Martinez, MD, an ophthalmologist in Bethesda, MD, and a clinical correspondent for the AAO. "By wearing UV-blocking sunglasses, you can enjoy the summer safely while lowering your risk for potentially blinding eye diseases and tumors."

Prolonged exposure to bright light creates a greater risk, as well as excessive exposure to UV light reflected off sand, water, or pavement, which can damage the eye's front surface. Sun exposure can cause lesions and tumors that may be cosmetically unappealing and that may frequently require surgical removal.

"Ultraviolet radiation levels to the eye are much greater in a tanning booths than outside in the sun," according to Dr. Martinez. "Corneal burns, cataracts, and, in rare instances, retinal damage can occur." Make sure to wear specially made goggles designed for use in tanning booths for protection of the eyes from UV light, he advised.

When choosing sunglasses, look for those that absorb at least 99% to 100% of both UV-A and UV-B rays. Products that do no not have labels that state the amount of UV blocked should be avoided, according to Dr. Martinez.