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Bucket Hat, courtesy Coolibar, Inc.

Bucket Hat, courtesy Coolibar, Inc.

August is Cataract Awareness Month and a reminder that eye damage, including the development of cataracts, can be caused by UVR.

Cataracts are the leading cause of vision loss in the United States.  The American Academy of Ophthalmology estimates that cataracts affect 20.5 million Americans age 40 and over and nearly half of all Americans by the age of 80.   Of those affected, 1.6 million cases are treated surgically every year in the United States, costing billions of dollars in medical care.

Cataracts form when a change in the chemical composition of the lens creates a cloudy substance that becomes increasingly difficult to see through.

The vast majority of cataracts are age related. The National Eye Institute estimates that by the age of 80 more than half of all Americans will either have a cataracts or will have had cataract surgery.

Other causes of cataracts are related to hereditary enzyme defects, a trauma to the eye, diabetes, or certain medications.

And there is compelling evidence that suggests cataracts are linked to UVR exposure.

The Chesapeake Bay Waterman study and the Salisbury Eye Evaluation Project, both published and peer-reviewed, found epidemiologic evidence suggesting a relationship between cataracts and chronic UV exposure.

Other kinds of eye damage from UVR exposure include pterygium (tissue growth that can block vision), skin cancer around the eyes, and degeneration of the macula (the part of the retina where visual perception is most acute). All of these problems can be lessened with proper eye protection.

Follow the advice in SunAWARE – Wear sun protective clothing, including a hat with a three inch brim and sunglasses. If you wear contact lenses, look for those that offer 99 to 100 percent UV protection.

Be Safe.  Be SunAWARE.

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