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May is UV Awareness Month

As spring turns to summer in Central Texas, protecting your eyes from the sun is not only a matter of comfort, but a way to protect your long-term vision. Harmful UV rays pose a wide array of threats to the health of your eyes and eyelids.

Overexposure to UV rays can lead to a condition known as pinguecula, a thickening of the tissue covering the whites of the eyes. While this condition does not necessarily affect vision it can cause discomfort and, if left untreated, can affect the cornea. Some studies have shown that an unprotected eye is more susceptible to macular degeneration later in life. The macula is a part of the retina, a layer of tissue that lines the back of the eye, and can deteriorate overtime leading to blurred or blind spots.
Many of us will develop cataracts as we age, and experts suggest that UV exposure can accelerate that process. A cataract is the clouding of the lens of the eye and will impair vision until it is removed by a surgeon.

Just like your skin can burn after a long day in the sun, so can your cornea. Corneal sunburn does not permanently affect vision, but it can be extremely painful and even cause temporary blindness.
Not wearing sunglasses with UV protection can also cause wrinkles and even skin cancer in the skin around your eyes. The thin skin that makes up your eyelids is particularly susceptible to sun damage, and squinting will cause wrinkles.

Not all sunglasses protect from UV rays. When shopping, it is important to look for glasses with lenses that block 99 to 100 percent of UV rays. Darker lenses do not necessarily protect better from the sun. Gray, yellow and amber shades can also do the job as long as they absorb UV rays. Don’t forget, your children and infants need sun protection too!

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