Training Tips

The Importance of Sun Protection for Your Eyes

Around half a million people nationwide are completing marathons every year, so it’s no secret that runners spend a great deal of time outdoors. The pursuit of running as a pastime greatly increases runners’ exposure to ultraviolet (UV) and high energy visible (HEV) light waves. While most people remember to apply sunscreen, many overlook the importance of eye protection.

Many common eye ailments result from over-exposure to UV and HEV light waves throughout our lives. Cataracts are often considered a part of aging, and cataract surgery has become commonplace among people 60 years and older, making it the most commonly performed surgery in the U.S. Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is a condition that damages the central part of the retina, permanently impairing vision, and – as with cataracts – it is also often associated with the aging process. Surgery can correct cataracts, but there is no cure for AMD. Luckily, there is good news! Sunglasses can delay or even prevent the onset of these conditions, especially if worn starting at an early age. In addition, the coverage provided by sunwear can prevent some skin cancers that affect the delicate skin surrounding the eyes.

For those who spend a lot of time outdoors year round, as runners do, each season presents its own set of sun-related challenges, making sunwear a must all year long. In spring and summer, the sun shines more brightly and intensely due its direct angle overhead. Warm weather hobbies such as boating, fishing, and outdoor athletics expose us to glare from water, sand, and other reflective surfaces.

The overcast skies of autumn don’t eliminate UV and HEV light. In fact, seasonally thinner cloud layers absorb less UV and HEV, allowing more radiation to penetrate the atmosphere and reach our eyes below. In winter, snow reflects up to 80% of the sun’s rays, which can cause short term snow blindness and contribute to the long-term effects of sun exposure.

Wind and weather affect the outdoor athlete, too, as the eyes are impacted by wind and dry conditions year round.

Fortunately, these issues all have a common, simple solution: sunglasses. Wearing sunglasses minimizes damaging UVA, UVB, and HEV exposure, and protects eyes against the elements. Choosing the right sunwear for the situation makes all the difference. Whether prescription or non-prescription, be sure your sunwear provides 100% UVA and UVB protection. An optical center, such as Vision Essentials by Kaiser Permanente, is the best place to find quality sunwear to meet your needs. Sunglasses sold at department stores may lose their thin UV coating after a short time, making purchasing from and optical center the best option.

Vision Essentials offers many lens options to choose from. Polarized lenses reduce glare and improve visual clarity. Brown lenses create crisp contrast and sharpness, while grey lenses are excellent for sports such as running, golfing, boating, or skiing. Green lenses provide true-to-color vision, which is great for driving. All of our non-prescription sunwear provides 100% UV protection as well.

Choosing a suitable frame is also important. Runners and other athletes who are often outdoors should choose a frame that wraps around the face to block the sun from every angle. Many of these sporty styles incorporate high-performance materials such as rubberized nose and temple grips to prevent slipping during intense activity.

Regular eye exams play an important part in eye health, too, which is just one part of a total health program. Kaiser Permanente members enjoy access to comprehensive eye care, including routine screenings, retinal exams, contact lens exams, and many other services that can help keep your eyes at their healthiest! Optometrists often find early signs of diseases such as diabetes during regular office visits. Visit our website to schedule an appointment online, or call 303-338-4545 for our appointment call center.

Protect your eyes from sun and wind on those long summer runs! Stop by the Vision Essentials by Kaiser Permanente booth at the Colfax Marathon and see our great selection of sunglasses!

And don’t forget to stop by a Vision Essentials Optical Center for all your eyewear needs! We can help you find a great pair of sunglasses for all your outdoor activities, or get a pair of computer glasses specially designed to ease eye strain from long stretches in front of the monitor. Or we can just update your look in the glasses you wear every day. You don’t need to be a member to take advantage of our great selection of state-of-the-art lenses and stylish frames, and you never need an appointment to shop. Stop in at any of our 12 locations in the Denver/Boulder and Colorado Springs areas and let our knowledgeable staff find the perfect pair of glasses for you!