Prevent Blindness America
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Prevent Blindness America's Sunscreen for Your Eyes

NEWS ALERT: PREVENT BLINDNESS AMERICA HAS RECEIVED MANY CALLS ABOUT THE DANGERS OF WATER-PROOF SUNSCREEN PREPARATIONS TO THE EYES. THIS APPEARS TO BE AN URBAN MYTH, ACCORDING TO THE AMERICAN ACADEMY OF OPHTHALMOLOGY. SUNSCREEN, LIKE MANY COSMETIC PREPARATIONS, CAN BE IRRITATING TO THE EYES. WHEN APPLYING SUNSCREEN, CARE SHOULD BE TAKEN TO AVOID THE EYES. IF SUNSCREEN DOES GET INTO YOUR EYES, THEY SHOULD BE IMMEDIATELY FLUSHED WITH WATER FOR SOME TIME. WHENEVER THERE ARE SIGNS OF SERIOUS EYE PROBLEMS, YOU SHOULD SEE EYE DOCTOR IMMEDIATELY. CONTACT PREVENT BLINDNESS AMERICA FOR MORE INFORMATION ON EYE EMERGENCIES AND COSMETIC EYE SAFETY.

SCHAUMBURG, IL—It's time to hit the beach and, ever conscious of the dangers of ultraviolet radiation (UV), you are prepared. You have a hat to protect your hair, sunscreen lotion to protect your skin, and lip balm or lipstick with sunscreen to protect your lips. Are you ready for an afternoon of fun in the sun? Prevent Blindness America says, "no!"

While all those things are great to do for sun safety, you missed one important thing: sunglasses. Before you grab them and head out the door, you should stop for a minute to check out your shades. Using the wrong sunglasses may actually increase the amount of damage the sun does to your eyes. May is Sight-Saving Month and Prevent Blindness America wants you to know how to have safe summer fun that is easy on your eyes.

Your sunglasses should block 99-100% of the full UV spectrum to 400 nanometers. It's not easy to tell. You look at your glasses: they seem to have a very dark tint, so they must provide good protection. Unfortunately, tint may be unrelated to screening protection. Unless glasses are labeled with comprehensive UV protection information, they probably do not provide adequate UV protection. If those glasses are really dark, your pupils will open to let in more light—and more UV radiation.

You think to yourself, "I paid an arm and a leg for these glasses; they must have UV protection." Wrong again. Price may have little to do with the quality of UV protection afforded by a pair of glasses. Inexpensive drug store sunglasses, labeled for full UV protection, may provide optimum protection while a pair of designer frames, with dark lenses, inadequate UV protection and a hefty price could allow more UV into your eyes.

If you are going to be near water or light-colored sand, you may double or triple your exposure to UV. Both water and sand reflect the sun's rays and increase your risk for the problems associated with UV. Should you worry if you are only out at the beach a few times a year? Yes, UV radiation affects the eyes over your entire lifetime. Many occasional weeks of fun in the sun, spread out over a lifetime, will increase your risk of cataracts and other eye problems, so you should always wear UV-protected sunglasses when you go out.

If you are taking a very small child to the beach with you, Jack Jeffers, M.D., director of the emergency department at Philadelphia's Wills Eye Hospital and Prevent Blindness America's eye safety spokesperson, recommends putting a wide-brim hat on the child or keeping the child under a beach umbrella. When you feel your child is old enough to wear sunglasses, a hat and sunglasses will provide the most complete coverage. Sunglasses and a hat will not only protect your child's eyes from UV and blowing sand, but will also help protect the child from a painful sunburn on the face.

For more information on Sight-Saving month or on UV protection for yourself and your family, please call Prevent Blindness America at 1-800-331-2020.

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Celebrating its 90th anniversary in 1998, Prevent Blindness America® is the nation's leading volunteer eye health and safety organization dedicated to fighting blindness and saving sight. Prevent Blindness America serves millions of people each year through public and professional education, community and patient services programs and research. Together with a network of affiliates, divisions and chapters, it's committed to eliminating preventable blindness in America. For more information call (800) 331-2020 or visit www.preventblindness.org on the Internet.

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