Every time I get into my car, I always reach for my little glove compartment right away. I stash my regular glasses and slip on my sunglasses.
Then, I’m ready to roll.
Even if it’s a cloudy day, these sunglasses stay on until the sun disappears below the horizon. Just like applying sunscreen, wearing your sunglasses should be a regular part of your routine when going outside.
When I used to ski with the brightly reflecting snow, I would kick things up another notch with specially designed ski glasses — complete with leather blinders on the side.
Gotta say, I looked pretty edgy in them!
Personally, with the amount of reading I do, my sense of sight is the last thing I want to risk, so I don’t mess around when it comes to eyes.
Now, you may not realize it, but your eyes can get sunburned just like your skin.
And while eye drops and a little rest will help heal your bloodshot, irritated and gritty eyes, sun damage to your peepers can lead to further problems down the road.
In particular, there’s a part of your eyes called the macula. It protects your central sight from damage caused by blue light from the sun’s rays. With more unprotected sun exposure, your macula becomes thinner and thinner over time.
The UV rays from the sun also trigger the production of a substance called drusen. These are yellow or yellow whitish deposits composed of fats, protein and cell waste that collect under your retina.
Now, both of these occurrences are linked to the development of the dry form of age-related macular degeneration (AMD). This is one of the leading causes of blindness in the world today.
Worse, when membranes near drusen deposits begin to break down, it can cause new blood vessels to start growing. These blood vessels are fragile and tend to leak blood and fluid under the macula. This is the wet form of AMD.
All of this damage makes it hard to work or read in dim-light conditions. Words become blurred and your central vision may become fuzzy and hazy, even when you’re looking at something right in front of you.
Here’s the thing folks… There is no cure for macular degeneration.
Why You Need a Good Pair of Sunglasses
Once you reach the advanced stage of dry AMD, there is no medical treatment to prevent further vision loss.
If you develop the wet form, the best you can hope for are injections into your eyes to slow down the leakage. (Or, if you’re brave, you can undergo laser surgery to destroy the leaky blood vessels. However, laser treatment can also destroy surrounding tissue – which could further damage your vision.)
But there are several things you can do to prevent the development of AMD.
Your first priority should be a good pair of sunglasses.
And I’m not talking about the $9.99 pair you can buy from the rack at your local drug store. Spend a little money and get a high quality pair designed to block out 100% UVA and UVB rays. I also recommend lenses that are polarized.
Maybe you already wear sunglasses on a regular basis. If you do, I’ll bet you bought them with only three things in mind: Comfort, style and glare protection.
Well, just because those dark lenses block the sun’s glare doesn’t mean they block UV rays. This is a very common misconception among sunglass wearers.
The next thing you need to do is actually wear the sunglasses.
They won’t do much good if you stash them in your glove compartment or leave them laying on the coffee table while you wait for a bright and sunny summer day.
UV rays are present whether it’s sunny or cloudy, all year round, and even when you’re driving in your car.
Top Nutrients to Protect you from Sight-Robbing AMD
In addition to wearing sunglasses, there are certain nutrients that can protect against AMD – and help prevent it from progressing if caught in early to intermediate stages.
You see, your macula is comprised almost entirely lutein and zeaxanthin. A lack of these carotenoids can thin and break down your macula.
On the other hand, enough lutein and zeaxanthin will help protect the macula by absorbing the harmful rays from the sun. They will also act as powerful antioxidants to shield your eyes from free radical damage.
People with the highest intakes of lutein and zeaxanthin are less likely to develop drusen and leaky blood vessels behind the macula. They also have a greatly reduced risk of developing AMD.
Some foods that contain these powerful antioxidants are dark leafy greens such as kale, turnip greens, collards, spinach and chard. So it’s not hard to get more of them in your diet.
But for maximum protection, I recommend looking for an eye formula that contains at least 12 mg of lutein and 2 mg of zeaxanthin and taking it daily.
Wearing UV blocking sunglasses and taking these two eye antioxidants every day can go a long way to protect your sight and keep you independent as you age.
Cruickshanks KJ, et al. Sunlight and the 5-year incidence of early age-related maculopathy: the beaver dam eye study. Arch Ophthalmol. 2001 Feb;119(2):246-50.
Delcourt C, et al. Light exposure and the risk of age-related macular degeneration: the Pathologies Oculaires Liées à l’Age (POLA) study. Arch Ophthalmol. 2001 Oct;119(10):1463-8.
Tan JS, et al. Dietary antioxidants and the long-term incidence of age-related macular degeneration: the Blue Mountains Eye Study. Ophthalmology. 2008 Feb;115(2):334-41.