Comment
268
Tweet
4
Print
RSS Feeds

Sunglasses are not an accessory -- they're a health necessity

Wednesday - 5/21/2014, 5:02am  ET

glasses.jpg
Dr. Lindsay Smithen, a retina specialist in the Department of Ophthalmology at the George Washington Medical Faculty Associates, says the damage from not wearing sunglasses is cumulative and starts at a young age. (WTOP/Paula Wolfson)

WASHINGTON -- It seems people who live in the D.C. area are really bad about wearing their shades.

The Vision Council's 2014 Sun Protection Survey shows only 16 percent of local residents wear sunglasses regularly. That's below the national average of 27 percent.

The council based its survey on interviews with 10,000 Americans in 10 cities. Phoenix was at the top with more than 90 percent of its residents wearing shades. D.C. came out near the bottom.

Also, the survey found that a majority of people of people who live in or around the nation's capital are unaware of the long-term consequences of sun damage to their eyes. Sixty-one percent did not know there is a link to macular degeneration; 49 percent had no clue that too much sun exposure can increase the risk of cataracts.

Dr. Lindsay Smithen, a retina specialist in the Department of Ophthalmology at the George Washington Medical Faculty Associates, says "the damage is cumulative; it starts when you are little."

Smithen is adamant that kids need to wear sunglasses. Her daughter, 3-year-old Talia, "wears her sunglasses religiously every day."

And whether the glasses are for a child or an adult, certain criteria must be met.

Smithen says to look for sunglasses that provide 99 to 100 percent protection from UVA and UVB rays. There are good and bad options at all price ranges, so check carefully for the amount of UV protection.

The doctor also says people need to know that the color and the darkness of sunglasses is not correlated with the amount of ultraviolet protection.

"You don't want to be fooled by just buying a pair of really dark glasses, thinking they must be blocking the rays," she warns.

Smithen recommends either wrap-around glasses or wide lenses that cover the entire eye. Be sure to wear them on sunny as well as cloudy days, because UV rays can still filter through the clouds.

People with blue eyes tend to be more sensitive to the light, and should be especially vigilant. And, Smithen says, it is crucial for everyone to wear UV protective glasses at the pool, on the beach or when boating because the light reflects off the water and into your eyes.

Follow @WTOP and @WTOPliving on Twitter and WTOP on Facebook.

© 2014 WTOP. All Rights Reserved.