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Rose Love is in the air. It's time to send cards and wishes to those loved and adored.

Dr. MacKewiz wants to encourage residents to give a valentine to your eyes this February - in the form of a pair of sunglasses. The sun's damaging effects are a concern year round regardless of what the temperature is outside.

In addition to visible light, the sun gives off ultraviolet radiation. This radiation is divided into three types: UV-A, UV-B, and UV-C. The earth's ozone layer absorbs UV-C radiation, leaving sunglasses to protect against UV-A and UV-B rays.

Studies indicate that long-term exposure to UV-A and UV-B can contribute to the development of cataracts; retinal problems; benign growths on the eye's surface; cancer of the eyelids and skin around the eyes; and photokeratitis, a temporary but painful sunburn of the eye's surface.

The sun's brightness creates a disabling glare that interferes with comfortable vision and the ability to see clearly. It causes eyes to squint and to water. This glare occurs on cloudy as well as sunny days. On snowy days, sunglasses reduce the reflected glare that occurs when the sun's light bounces off snow.

The best protection against the sun's damaging rays is consistent use of sunglasses. Use the following tips when selecting your next pair of sunglasses. For optimum sun protection, the sunglasses should:

  • block out 99-100 percent of both UV-A and UV-B radiation
  • screen out 75-90 percent of visible light (fashion-tinted lenses usually do not meet this level)
  • be perfectly matched in color and free of distortion and imperfection
  • have gray, green, or brown lenses (gray is recommended)

Children and teenagers are particularly susceptible to the sun's damaging rays because they typically spend more time outdoors than adults and the lenses of their eyes are more transparent than those of adults. Thus, this allows more UV radiation to reach the retinas of children and teenagers (the retina is the light sensitive layer at the back of the eyes.) The effects of UV radiation are cumulative, so it's important to develop good protection habits early in life.

Give yourself the gift of healthy vision with a great pair of sunglasses-your eyes will love you for it.