4 sun-damage facts to share with your patients

Inform your patients about the need for UV protection—no matter the season.

When it comes to the long-term vision risks of exposure to ultraviolet (UV) rays, Americans are not well informed.

Only 40 percent of Americans cite protection from sun damage as their main reason for wearing sunglasses, according to the AOA's 2013 American Eye-Q® Survey. Only 28 percent factor in UV protection when buying sunglasses.

This lack of awareness is one reason behind the SUN Initiative, which the AOA created in partnership with the Opticians Association of America and with support from Luxottica and The Vision Council. This program provides tools and free continuing education to help optometrists better inform patients about sun-related risks and guide sunglass purchasing decisions.

Most recently, the AOA updated a fact sheet, "Protect Your Eyes From The Sun," designed to inform patients about the need for proper protection. For example:

1. Sun protection matters year-round

Are your patients active in winter sports such as downhill skiing? Inform them about the need for UV protection no matter the season. Consider this: UV radiation increases by about 4 percent with every 1,000 feet of elevation gain—and those rays keep coming even on cloudy days.

2. UV exposure can do short-term damage

Your patients may not know about sunburn of the eye, or photokeratitis. This condition comes from excessive exposure to UV rays. It's not permanent, but it can be extremely painful.

3. The sun can lead to long-term vision loss

Without proper protection, patients can do damage to their eyes. Let them know long-term overexposure raises the risk of cataracts, pterygium, age-related macular degeneration and even cancer.

4. Sunglasses make a difference for kids, too

Parents who slather sunscreen on their kids before a day at the beach may not know sunglasses are important, too. A child's eyes are more sensitive than an adult's, so stress the need for protection even at a very young age.

Steps to help you educate patients

December 11, 2013

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