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Healthwatch 16: Why doctors encourage sunglass use year-round

Sunglasses are a staple of summer, but experts say that even in the colder months, you run the risk of damaging your eyes without them.

LUZERNE COUNTY, Pa. — Summer is usually filled with fun in the sun, but whether you're outside in July or December, you should make sure that your eyes are covered.

"We always think of sunglasses to be worn in the summertime, but honestly, every season as long as there is sun shining, there's UV light exposure," said Dr. Stacy Conway, an optometrist and the director of optometry at Geisinger Wyoming Valley Medical Center.

Dr. Conway said that you'll want to make sure you have sunglasses on whenever you're outside.

"If the UV light is getting into the eyes, it's bright enough that you feel like you're straining, it's going to be causing some damage," said Dr. Conway. "Excessive UV light can cause damage to the macula, which is the area of your central vision. It can cause damage. It can cause some cataract formation. It can also give you a corneal burn if you're out there in excessive UV for a long period of time."

Some of the damage from the sun isn't permanent.

"Corneal burns, they will heal. I guess if there's excessive damage, there could be scarring, but overall it's just uncomfortable."

Dr. Conway adds that it doesn't matter if you spend $5 or $100 on sunglasses, they need to have one thing.

"People think the more expensive, the better. That's not always the case. As long as it says UVA/UVB protection, that is what you really need to watch for."

So how do you know if your eyes are damaged by the sun?

"Just coming to your eye doctor and getting a regular eye checkup every year, every two years is important. We monitor for all of those things at your yearly eye exams."