Summer is winding down, but for some people that means outdoor activities and projects are just beginning. The prospect of cooler temperatures motivates many to catch up on yard work, start home improvement projects or take up sports or other activities outside.
In addition to wearing sunscreen and donning knee pads or other protective gear, don’t overlook protecting your eyes. About 90 percent of eye injuries during activities can be prevented with protective eyewear, according to American Academy of Ophthalmology. At least twice a week, I take something out of someone’s eye that could have been prevented with safety glasses. Beyond injury, everyone spending time outside should wear sunglasses to protect their eyes from bright sunlight. Exposure to UV rays can increase the risk of developing blinding eye diseases or growths — not to mention early wrinkling of skin around the eyes due to squinting.
So before you head out the door, take a moment to consider your sight and eye health. Here are a few suggestions for selecting the right eye protection:
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▪ Look for ANSI-approved (American National Standards Institute) eyewear for optimum protection from flying debris – wood chips, grass and shrubbery – and chemicals. The rating is found on lenses or frames. You can easily buy a pair at the hardware store. OHSA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) sets standards for workplace safety glasses. Make sure your employer informs you how to keep your eyes protected.
▪ Take time to ensure the proper fit. Eyewear should fit snug, close to your eyes and face, without pinching your nose or ears. You should be able to move your head without the glasses sliding down your nose or pulling away from your face, even when looking straight down.
▪ Prescription eyeglass frames are designed for fashion, not safety. Purchase protective goggles or eyewear that can fit comfortably over them. If you need to wear eye protection on a regular basis, consult an optometrist about getting fitted for a suitable frame with impact-resistant prescription lenses.
▪ Plastic vs. polycarbonate. Both are fine if they conform to ANSI standards. Plastic lenses are less likely to scratch but polycarbonate is a little stronger.
▪ Some sports activities – such as paintball and racquetball – require specific eyewear protection. Know your sport and select protection that has ASTM approval (American Society for Testing and Materials).
UV ray protection
▪ Look for sunglasses that block 100 percent of both UVA and UVB rays. The darkness of the lenses and the cost are not an indicatorChoose sunglasses that wrap around so that harmful rays can’t enter from the side.
▪ In addition to sunglasses, wear a hat to help block bad rays.
▪ Wear sunglasses year round. Your eyes can be damaged by the sun’s rays during the winter months and on hazy days.
Don’t let an eye injury hinder your enjoyment and productivity, or jeopardize your eye sight long term. Invest in quality protective eyewear and sunglasses to safeguard your eyes, your fall plans and your eye health.
Alan McCormick is an optometrist for Via Christi Clinic on Carriage Parkway.