Shades aren't just fashion, but for eye protection, too


POSTED: Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Two-thirds of more than 5,000 people observed outdoors on a sunny day on Oahu were not wearing sunglasses, increasing the risk of cataracts, says a University of Hawaii-Manoa researcher.

Only 12 percent of children were wearing protective glasses, said Jay Maddock, chairman of the Department of Public Health Sciences, John A. Burns School of Medicine.




Protect Your Eyes


        » The sun's rays are strongest between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. Even on cloudy days the rays get through.

» Larger sunglasses, especially wraparounds, are best to protect more of the eye.


» Look for sunglasses specially made for children at children's specialty shops. Hats also are recommended for children.


» The sun is intensified when reflected off the water, and water sunglasses, known as surfer sunglasses, offer protection for water sports.


» Keep more than one pair of sunglasses if you forget them often.


» Carry them and wear them.


Source: Dr. Jay Maddock, University of Hawaii John A. Burns School of Medicine Department of Public Health Services


Beaches, parks and public swimming pools were covered in a research project with surprising results, he said.

“;I was shocked, actually,”; he said. “;The beaches were the area where we were least likely to see people wearing sunglasses.”;

Also, he said, “;There were no gender differences.”;

Lead author of a report on the findings in the February issue of Optometry and Vision Science, Maddock said, “;It's important to raise public awareness. People don't think about sunglasses as a health issue.”;

He said he'd like to see a public school program similar to 'Iolani School's award-winning sun safety education to promote sunglasses use among children to reduce the incidence of cataracts.

“;Lifetime exposure is a strong receptor for cataracts,”; he said in an interview. “;It's really cumulative. Any time you're out in the sun, your eyes should be protected. A cap will help, and sunglasses.”;

Cataracts grow slowly, clouding the lens of the eye. They eventually affect vision and can cause blindness, but they can be treated with surgery.

More than 20 million Americans over age 40 have cataracts in at least one eye, and the number is expected to exceed 30 million within 11 years, Maddock said.

His sons, Jacob, 4, and Joshua, 6 months, wear sunglasses outdoors, although “;it's always a struggle,”; he acknowledged. They also wear hats, which probably block exposure 50 percent or so, he said.

Sunglasses are becoming less expensive, Maddock said, noting higher-priced shades might be related to fashion and not necessarily their ability to block damaging solar rays. Any sunglasses with a sticker saying they block 100 percent of ultraviolet A and B (UVA and UVB) rays are good, he said.

“;The color of the glasses doesn't matter, either,”; he added. “;Just because they're dark doesn't mean they're better.”;