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UV Protection And Summer | Long Island Eye Doctor

Joel Kestenbaum, OD

What do all these activities have in common?

  • Walking on the beach or sunbathing on the beach
  • Playing baseball
  • Golfing
  • Fishing
  • Tennis
  • Swimming
  • Biking
  • Long hikes with your spouse, family or friends
  • Driving the convertible with the top down


They are all outdoor activities exposing our body to harmful ultraviolet rays.  Unless you live in a bubble, we have all heard that UV rays are harmful to our skin.  As a preventative measure against sunburn, most people I know apply sunscreen.

But what I do not see is a majority of people wearing sunglasses to protect their eyes from sun damage. Statistics show that 80% of a person’s lifetime exposure to ultraviolet light comes before the age of 18. Ultraviolet light exposure has been shown to cause cataracts, corneal burns, dry and red eyes and even problems with the macula (the part of the retina responsible for sharp clear vision and color vision perception).

I was in Europe recently and noticed that almost everyone was wearing sunglasses, including infants.  Then I returned to the good old USA and noticed that only a small percentage of people here were wearing them.

It made me question “why?”  So I did an informal study in my practice.  I questioned about 100 random adult patients ages 18 and over.  I asked:

Did you know that ultraviolet light can damage the eye?

Do you routinely wear sunglasses?  If not, why not?

The answers astounded me. 40% of the people surveyed said they did not believe that UV rays can harm the eyes.  About 40% of the non believers routinely wore sunglasses.  Of the 60% that believed that UV rays harmed the eyes, only 30% of those people wore sunglasses.  First of all, these numbers don’t make sense to me.  When those that didn’t wear sunglasses were asked why they didn’t, the answers ranged from “just lazy” to “I lose them” to “they are expensive.”
Now I practice in an upper middle class neighborhood so I have trouble with “they are expensive.”  Most of my patients drive expensive foreign cars and they probably eat out three or more times a week.  Is it priorities or lack of concern for their well-being?  Are Europeans that much more concerned about their health or are they just more educated than we are with their priorities in the right place?  I don’t know the answer to that but perhaps someone out there can shed some light……..without UV of course.

Enjoy your summer and stay UV protected.

Joel Kestenbaum, OD

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