Doctor: UV rays can damage our eyes

By Brenton Awa
Published On: May 09 2013 06:57:03 PM HST

A new report says people are slacking off when it comes to protecting their eyes from harmful UV rays and our vision will pay the price.

HONOLULU -

A new study says Honolulu ranks in the top five places in the nation when it comes to the amount of ultraviolet radiation we experience.

The report says despite the damaging effects UV rays have on our eyes 40 percent of us still do not wear sunglasses.

Dr. Jeffrey Wong is an optometrist at the Honolulu Eye Clinic.  He sees many patients in Hawaii with damaged eyes.

"And if it gets to the center we get worried because it blocks the vision and if you had to remove it you'd have a scar," said Dr. Wong.

The type of eye damage Dr. Wong is referring to is called Teridium, a problem for everyday beach goers.

"Commonly called surfers eye, very common in Hawaii because we're so close to the equator, a lot more UV light than in other parts of the country," said Dr. Wong.

Teridium is caused when the white part of an eye grows onto the cornea. It can cause irritation and blurred vision.  Hana resident Larry Shamblin used to surf daily without sunglasses. N ow, Shamblin wears them all the time.

"When I was young I never used to use glasses so when I started getting older, especially when I stay in the white water, the thing just screw up all my vision," said Shamblin.

Dr. Wong says protection is key and sunglasses are the best defense against UV eye damage, but surfers aren't the only ones who should wear them.

"I'm always amazed when people in Hawaii don't have a pair of sunglasses when they're driving around in really bright sun light," said Dr. Wong.

Wong says drivers are also at risk and can develop cancer of the eyelids from excessive UV exposure.  He says you don't have to buy expensive sunglasses to be protected.  Most over-the-counter cheap ones work just fine.

"Nowadays, they all protect against UV-A and UV-B rays which will protect your eyes from those kinds of problems," said Dr. Wong.

Whether you choose to wear them, wear them improperly, or not wear them at all, Doctors say some cases of eye damage are permanent, while most are preventable.

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