Lessons Learned about Protecting Your Vision

I was invited to sit in a webinar from The Vision Council about protecting your vision. I almost dismissed the invite, I have lots on my agenda each day. But then I noticed a factoid they included: “1 in 4 people rarely or never wear sunglasses.” Tweet:

And when I saw that, I knew that was said as a negative thing and I knew that I fit into that statistic. Also… I knew that my eyes hurt all the time. So I figured that perhaps I should be sitting in on this event!

The webinar was presented by The Vision Council and Dr. Justin Bazan, OD was the speaker.

Another perk? Because I agreed to share information about this event they sent me a sweet pair of sunglasses by O’Neill. They’re super lightweight, they feel good on, they are nice to look through, they actually help my eyes feel relief from the sun when they’re on, they’re spot-on with UV protection standards, etc. The only negative is that I’m a little unsure on the size. Half of the people I’ve polled have said they’re fantastic, the other half said they’re too big. And I was told that I look like I should be on the TV show CHiPs in them.

A photo posted by Jill (@jillwillrun) on

The webinar started off with a couple of quick polls for the attendees. It didn’t surprise me that most people choose their shades based upon style. I mean… read what I just wrote. There were so many wonderful things about these shades by the thing that makes me the most concerned is how they look.

uv-most-important-factor-choosing-sunglasses-poll

Then they asked us if we always wear sunglasses while doing fitness activities. I admit… I do not, but sometimes I wear them. The times that I don’t are often on cloudy days or when I run early in the morning. Some interesting things I learned:

  • 1 in 4 Americans rarely or never wear sunglasses, leaving eyes at risk
  • 2 in 3 Americans leave eyes unguarded on cloudy or rainy days
  • 3 in 10 Americans don’t protect their eyes in the winter, when UV rays are still present

Another couple of interesting facts:

  • Most people wear shades for driving, walking, going to beach/pool
  • Least often worn for running/biking, gardening and team sports

I have running shades… but I realized that I NEVER EVER wear my sunglasses when working in the garden. Since participating in this webinar that has changed, I now keep a pair of shades by my sliding doors that lead to the backyard so they’re easy to grab.

uv-wear-sunglasses-when-running-poll

Short term vision problems that can result from not protecting your eyes from UV rays include: photokeratitis, irritation, redness, swelling, hypersensitivity to light.

Long-term vision problems can include:
wrinkles and sunspots, pterygium (abnormal growths on eye and eyelid), cataracts, macular degeneration, cancer of eye, eyelid and surrounding skin

Common sense tells me “of course you can!” but I think it’s a good reminder: You can sunburn your eyes!

Blue eyes or eyes with less pigment are more vulnerable to damage from UV. (My blue eyes and my laziness might explain my redness problems? Combined with staring at a computer all day!)

They showed us a map of the US Cities with the Highest UV Index levels.

uv-cities-with-highest-uv-index-levels

My place of residence, Las Vegas, is #13 with 159 days of extreme or very high risk. But even if you’re not in the list, it’s important to take care of your eyes.

And it’s not just the UV light coming directly into our eyes. Reflected UV light is just as damaging as direct UV:
water reflects up to 100%
Snow reflects up to 85%
Dry sand and concrete reflect up to 25%
Grass reflects up to 3%

The level of UV entering the eye in morning, as the sun is rising/at the horizon line, and late afternoon, as the sun is setting/at horizon line, is nearly double than midday hours. So my logic of not putting on shades when its dim in the morning as the sun is coming up may be flawed!

uv-how-to-protect-eyes-lens-options

Some shades don’t actually have UVA/UVB protection, so make sure you look for that. Even look for it in regular vision correction glasses. (Cheap knock-off sunglasses from a street vendor on your vacay, most likely are not giving you protection.)

Really dark shades without UV protection are actually worse because your pupil dilates to accommodate for less light and you are introducing even more UV light into the eye, thus higher retinal exposure to UV.

All of this makes a good case for multiple pairs of sunglasses. You can have pairs that are tailored to your different activities in life (sport vs. business), make sure you are comfortable whenever outdoors and providing ample protection by eliminating the excuse that you don’t have sunglasses. I keep some in my car, in my husband’s car and some with my running gear.

Some things to look for in sport sunglasses

  • Ventilation to prevent fogging
  • Clear or light lenses for cloudy days
  • Wraparound for maximum protection
  • Photochromatic for long sport days (ultrarunners or Ironman competitors)

All of this is done to gear up toward National Sunglasses Day on June 27. Join the conversation on social media with the hashtags #NationalSunglassesDay and #SunglassSelfie.

There will also be a Twitter chat with The Vision Council on June 26 at 1 PM ET.

Do you actively take steps to protect your vision? I’ve definitely been humbled by this information and reminded of just how important it is to wear my sunglasses!

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