The University Record, June 3, 2002

Protect eyes from harmful rays

By Kara Gavin
Health System Public Relations

Soaking up the sun? Look out after your eyes as well as after your skin, U-M eye experts say.

While most of us know that it’s important to protect our skin from the sun, we might not as readily think about our eyes. Yet the same ultraviolet rays that damage the skin can harm your eyes as well, says Michael Smith-Wheelock, M.D., ophthalmologist at the Kellogg Eye Center. He advises adults and children to wear sunglasses with UV protection to block harmful rays.

Prolonged exposure to the sun has a direct link to some eye conditions, including the formation of cataracts, and is suspected of contributing to others, says Smith-Wheelock. Smith-Wheelock notes that intense UV rays can actually burn the surface of the cornea. The condition, called photokeratitis, is similar to sunburn and is more likely to occur in areas where the sun is highly reflected, for example, off of water, snow, the desert and in tanning booths.

Kellogg optician David Karl explains what you should look for in a pair of sunglasses. First check for a rating that promises to block 99 percent to 100 percent of the UV-A and UV-B rays.” Another popular feature, he says, is polarization, which increases comfort by cutting the glare from horizontal surfaces, like water.

Because UV rays can penetrate the clouds, Mr. Karl says it’s a good idea to wear sunglasses on overcast days. You also need protection when you’re in a tanning booth, and when you’re near water or snow, because reflected sun means intensified UV rays.

For more information, call the Kellogg Eye Center, (734) 763-1415, or visit www.kellogg.umich.edu.