Most of us remember Smokey the Bear’s famous phrase: “Only YOU can prevent forest fires.” Well, the same thing goes for cataracts. Only YOU can prevent cataracts! This degenerative eye disease that has the potential to cause blindness is primarily caused by exposure to ultraviolet radiation. UV rays are a type of light that is at a higher frequency and shorter wavelength than visible light and can cause DNA damage.
UV rays are invisible, but they can cause great harm to your skin and your eyes. Exposure to UV rays can result in the development of free radicals which can cause the lens of the eye to slowly deteriorate and form a cataract. Every time we go outside without wearing proper sunglasses or a hat, we are exposed to harmful UV radiation. There are two main types of UV rays that cause cataracts: UVA and UVB rays.
Let’s face it. Even though we’re adults, we still have bad habits. We are good about reminding our kids to apply sunscreen and wear eye protection, but we don’t follow our own rules. Most of us could probably admit that we often do not wear sunglasses or use sunscreen as often as we should. It just comes down to laziness, but there’s no room for excuses when it comes to your eyes. Sunscreen and sunglasses should be a daily routine, regardless of whether the sun is shining.
While it is true that the sun is our major producer of UVA and UVB rays, we can also be exposed to UV radiation by other sources such as:
- Black light lamps
- Dental polymerizing equipment
- UV nail curing lamps
- Phototherapy lamps
- Welding equipment
- Fluorescence equipment
- Plasma torches and mercury lamps (Source: ccohs.ca)
This means that salon workers, dentists and dental assistants, dermatologists, pediatricians, freight truckers, forensic experts, construction workers, welders, lighting technicians, and many other professionals are potentially exposed to UV radiation on a regular basis without even being in the sun. If you work in one of these professions, take the time to protect your eyes and skin from harmful radiation.
No matter your profession, YOU can prevent cataracts by:
- Avoiding sun exposure between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. when UV rays are strongest.
- Wearing sunglasses that offer 100 percent UVA and UVB protection whenever you are outside.
- Applying sunscreen on your face and especially around your eyes.
- Wearing a wide-brimmed hat when out in the direct sun.
- Choosing light-colored clothing that does not absorb UV radiation.
- Scheduling regular comprehensive eye exams with your eye doctor who can detect the formation of a cataract and offer treatment options
Move over, Smokey the Bear. You’re not the only one who’s preventing stuff these days!