All of us Arizona residents understand that we get a high abundance of sunshine, which is wonderful if you are a transplant from a less fortunate sunshine state. In 2012, AZ Central states that only 38 percent of Arizonians were natives. This is not shocking as many residents here in Arizona are snow birds, part timers or complete transplants whom now call Arizona home and are subject to long hot summers and intense sun rays.
It is a known fact that too much sun is bad for our overall health. Not only have we all experienced an impressive sun burn and attractive tan lines at least once in our life but we have all heard that the sun is bad for our skin. What about our eyes? More and more research and media is telling us that the sun is also bad for our eyes however do we protect our eyes like we do our skin? Here in Arizona it is very common to have one, two and possibly three pairs of sunglasses because the sun is constant. However, think about the states that may not get as much sun, may have abundant clouds or may be covered in snow. There are many factors that make the sun more dangerous and Arizona is in fact a hot spot where is sun is more intense.
When the sun is most intense, the greater your exposure to UV rays. There are many factors that determine how the sun will reach you according to the Sun Safety Alliance.
- Time of Day – Between 10 am and 4 pm the sun is at its highest in the sky, therefore UV levels are at an all time high in comparison to early morning and late afternoon.
- Season – UV light rays reach earth every single day, so there may be stronger rays during the summer months (May-August) however, even during the winter you must protect your eyes from harmful UV rays. Any flat and reflective surface will bounce the sun's UV rays back, this including snow, water, sand, pavement and more.
- Altitude – Arizona is famous for its mountains, valleys, peaks and much more at vastly different altitudes. The lowest altitude along the Colorado River is 70 feet above sea level whereas the highest peak, Humphrey's Peak, is 12,633 feet above sea level. At higher altitudes, the air is cleaner and thinner therefore, UV exposure is greater in the mountains than in the valleys.
- Location – The closer you are to earth's equator the stronger the UV rays. We, here in Arizona, are exposed to stronger UV rays than those living in Northern United States!
- Exposure Time – This is a no brainer, everyone knows the longer you are out in the sun the more UV rays you are exposed to. However, it is important to remember that you are exposed at all times while outside: driving, sporting events, yard work, picnics and much more.
- Medications – There are select medications that make you more susceptible to UV rays and extra precautions should be taken. Medications may include but are not limited to; tetracycline, sulfa drugs, birth control pills, diuretics and tranquilizers.
We are all at risk for UV rays when it comes to eye health however, kids are much more at risk. All About Vision states that “some experts say that because children tend to spend significantly more time outdoors than most adults, up to half of a person's lifetime exposure to UV radiation can occur by age 18.” This is especially true because the lens inside the eye in which we see through (crystalline lens) is completely clear in our adolescence therefore letting more UV into the eye. How many times have we seen parents wearing sunglasses, but not their kids? Not only do we need to protect our eyes and our children's' eye but we need to make sure we are protecting them correctly.
Not all sunglasses are equal. Currently, Australia is the only country with a law defining suitable sunglass standards according to Live Science. It is up to us to make sure we are purchasing sunglasses that will protect our eyes, not harm them further. Sunglasses that do not block 100% of UV rays may actually harm our eyes further and the reason for this is because our pupils become larger when we are looking into less light (the sunglass lenses) and because of this, we are letting all of those unblocked UV rays directly into our eyes. It is imperative to find lenses that block 100% of UV rays and an experienced optician can help you find the right pair of sunglasses. Oasis Vision Center only carries 100% UV protected sunglasses and can help you and your children find the right pair!
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