We Americans are a people that don’t seem to understand moderation. We view almost everything in extremes. Moreover, those extremes cause us to make poor decisions. Take eye health, for example. With all of the threats our eyes are allegedly exposed to, it’s a wonder we can still see.
Take a few minutes and run a couple of Google searches related to eye health. You’ll find plenty of articles warning you of the dangers of UV rays. You will see plenty of advice from experts claiming you are but one sunny day away from cataracts or cancer.
A reasonable amount of safety consciousness is always a good thing. But is it possible that we, as a society, have already gone overboard? Are we so panicked about every little thing that we become obsessed? Are we so concerned about long-term health issues that even minor issues in the present send us into a panic?
The Dangers of UV Radiation
There is no denying that excessive exposure to UV rays has been linked to multiple health conditions. UV exposure has been linked to a higher risk of skin cancer, for example. It has been linked to a variety of eye diseases. However, science has never proven the need to wear sunglasses every day of the year, even when the sun isn’t shining.
Year-round use of sunglasses is a theme echoed by nearly every optometrist in the Western world. But it is a theme born out of opinion. It is born of the same opinions that claim we should never go outside without first slathering sunscreen on the skin.
Unfortunately, what so many experts refuse to recognize is that skin cancer rates have actually increased since sunscreen was first introduced. Furthermore respected public health authorities including the FDA and the National Cancer Institute have concluded, through their own research, that the use of sunscreen doesn’t necessarily reduce skin cancer rates.
UV Radiation and the Eyes
Olympic Eyewear, a Utah designer and wholesaler of affordable sunglasses, acknowledges that UV protection is the number one factor in creating new models. Consumers want UV protection because they have been conditioned to believe that not wearing sunglasses will ultimately lead to devastating diseases.
It is true that studies have linked UV exposure to cataracts, cancer, and other conditions. But link and causation are different things. There’s no conclusive evidence that wearing sunglasses every day of the year prevents those diseases we are all so afraid of.
According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology, the eyes need at least some exposure to natural light to maintain good health. If we are always protecting our eyes with sunglasses, they cannot get that exposure. And at some point, a lack of natural light exposure could be more harmful than minimal exposure to UV rays.
Other Dangers Are out There
Most of what we read about involving sunglasses has to do with UV rays. But there are other threats out there. For example, there are some optometrists who advise wearing glasses all of the time to protect the eyes against dirt and debris. Others warn that exposure to the wind increases the risk of dry eyes. Wearing glasses every waking hour reduces the risks of both threats.
The point of this post is not to say people shouldn’t wear protective eyewear. It is simply to raise the question of whether or not we are overdoing it. Could it be that we are so panicked about so many threats that we are protecting our eyes too much? It’s something to think about.