By Alexander Germanis
One of the greatest gifts is the gift of sight. Not only are most people heavily dependent on it, the ability to see provides us with countless hours of enjoyment, whether it’s watching a movie, seeing a child take their first steps, reveling in the beauty of nature, or reading this article.
Like any other precious gift — especially one that cannot be replaced — it is of vital importance to take care of it so that it can be enjoyed for a lifetime. With the rise of warm weather and brighter, sunnier days, concern for protecting that gift of sight is also on the rise.
No one is more concerned about helping you take care of that gift than the eye care professionals at Bond Eye Associates in Peoria.
Change in vision
One of the Bond Eye team, Optical Manager Teresa Sebelist, ABOC/NCLE, has been focused on eye care for over three decades. “I’ve been at Bond Eye Associates for 19-and-a-half years,” she shares. “Prior to becoming an optician, I was a bookkeeper at a drug store.”
With her office situated next to the optical department, Teresa was all too happy to help out her neighboring optician from time to time, subsequently discovering she had a knack for selling frames and matching the right pair to the right person.
It quickly became clear to her that helping people to see was her new calling, leading her to study for and earn her American Board of Opticianry and National Contact Lens Examiner certifications.
Now, she and the rest of the team at Bond Eye Associates have an undying vision to protect yours.
After the long, dark, dreary winter months, the urge to get outside again and drink in the sunlight can be overwhelming. While some sunlight is certainly a good thing, it is also true there can be too much of a good thing.
While the sun provides the warmth and light to support life on earth, it is also a source of danger. The sheer brightness of the sun notwithstanding, the greatest danger of sun exposure is, ironically, unseen.
Ultraviolet radiation, or UV, is a form of light not visible to the naked eye, which is one of the reasons it is so dangerous. Because we cannot see it, we often do not notice the damage it can do until it is too late. Sunburns are a good example of this.
Aside from sunburns, Teresa warns of even greater dangers. “Cataracts are one of the leading conditions caused by the sun. It can make it very difficult to see later in life, and surgery is the only cure,” she says. “Too much UV is very dangerous for our eyes. It can also lead to Age-Related Macular Degeneration (AMD), which is where you lose the central part of your vision.”
When the central part of your retina, or macula, deteriorates, it can be like viewing the world through a warped window with a vision-obscuring spot in the center. AMD also commonly affects one’s perception of color.
Sun exposure poses other direct and indirect threats to one’s health. “The sun can also cause skin cancer around your eyes,” Teresa points out. “Squinting from the sun can keep you from seeing a car or pedestrians crossing the street, can cause wrinkles around the eyes, and can even be the cause of headaches.”
You gotta wear shades
Every summer, doctors renew their recommendations of wearing appropriate sunscreen on your exposed skin, but sunscreen and the sensitive tissues of the eyes don’t get along too well. That is, of course, one of the reasons why sunglasses were invented.
There are, however, the right sunglasses and the wrong sunglasses.
“When looking for the right pair of sunglasses, you want to be sure they are polarized and have a good UV filter in them,” Teresa advises.
“You don’t want to just get a department store pair that only has UV protection or are tinted. Some brands do make a higher quality polarized lens. However, as long as they are polarized, any brand would be better than tinted lenses.”
The wrong pair of sunglasses — such as the tinted glasses Teresa mentions — can actually do more harm than good. “Tinted lenses are more of a comfort lens as they do not help with reflections,” she says. “And they can actually cause your pupil to get larger, allowing more light to enter the eye.”
“Polarized lenses are made to block the glare that the sun creates on objects, such as the car in front of you, snow, or even the refection off the water,” Teresa continues. “Polarized lenses are far better than just tinted lenses because they block out the bad UV light rays.
Light travels in waves, usually in specific patterns. When light reflects off a flat surface such as a lake, the waves travel horizontally.
Polarization laminate on the surface of a lens is often applied in vertical strips in order to block those horizontally traveling light waves.
Polarized sunglasses are not the only defense against the dangers of UV radiation. Teresa indicates the old-fashioned methods are still some of the best. “Wearing a hat when you are outside can also help protect your eyes and face from the sun,” she advises.
Not just the sun
As much as we are warned about the summer sun, it is certainly not the only threat to our vision. The sun at all times of the year is still dangerous. “Of course the sun is closer to the earth during the summer and in the summer the UV rays are stronger, but we still have the dangers of UV all year round,” Teresa points out. “In the winter, we have more reflections to deal with. The snow and ice on the ground can cause serious reflections of UV rays back at you.”
As the danger of UV is present year round, Teresa says the solution is simple: “You should wear sunglasses all year round!”
On bright, sunny days, the urge to grab a pair of sunglasses is automatic. They don’t just provide protection on those days, but a definite form of comfort as well. On cloudy days, however, it’s normal to think it will be perfectly safe to venture forth without a pair of sunglasses.
After all, why wear sunglasses when there is no visible sun with which to contend?
Teresa indicates the folly of this assumption. “The clouds may limit some of the UV, but the UV will still find its way through the clouds. So, even on cloudy day you should wear UV-protected glasses — clear and sunglasses.”
It is all to common for people to spend the entire day indoors, of course, so the threat of too much UV radiation may not seem like much of an issue. But, there are other threats to our vision.
“We live in a world with tablets and cell phones, which emit large amounts of blue light,” Teresa says.
Blue light is a higher-energy portion of the visible spectrum of light. Some portions of that part of the spectrum can be beneficial, helping us regulate our natural rhythms. Like with sunlight, however, too much blue light can cause issues with one’s health.
“With so much technology being used, the amount we are now exposed to can be quite dangerous,” Teresa says. “Blue light affects our brains. It keeps us from sleeping and can cause images to imprint longer in our brains from these devices. We now are able to make lenses to protect our patients from the dangers of blue light.”
Thankfully, when it comes to protecting the gift of sight from the dangers of the sun, only relatively simple precautions are required. It is the mission of Teresa and her colleagues at Bond Eye Associates to help with those precautions to make sure your future remains as bright as the sun itself.
Bond Eye Associates is located at 6800 N. Knoxville Avenue in Peoria. If you would like to make an appointment to get your eyes examined, call 309-692-2020, or call toll-free at 800-243-2020. They also offer 24-hour emergency service outside of their regular Monday through Friday hours of 8:30am–5:00pm. They can also be reached through their website: bondeye.com.