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More Americans losing eyesight

The National Eye Institute reports that vision impairments like macular degeneration and cataracts are on the rise. Some of this is due to the natural aging process, but there are also external causes.

Dr. John Nishimoto is a professor at the Southern California College of Optometry. He says H.E.V. Rays penetrate deeply into the eyes with potentially damaging consequences.

"High-energy visible light typically have the colors of blue, kind of violet, that type of color," says Nishimoto. "Those are the colors that have the most energy, the highest risk for potential eye damage to occur." 

Nishimoto says, "Sunlight is hitting the front of the eye. It goes inside the eye and that could include the ultraviolet and also it could include the high-energy visible light. And that high-energy visible light gets inside the eye." 

Research has shown those harmful rays have contributed to the vision loss of nearly 30 million Americans who are affected by cataracts. And they've spiked a 25 percent increase in those who suffer from macular degeneration.

Dr. Nishimoto says people with light-colored eyes are most at risk.

"The less pigment that you have in the retina or in the macula, the more damage potentially could happen," says Nishimoto.

But regardless of eye color, Dr. Nishimoto says everyone needs to take eye protection seriously. 

Nishimoto says, "The best thing to do is to use good sun protection that absorbs or prevents the transmission of this high-energy visible light into the eye. And you want to seek an eye professional that can make recommendations for that type of eyewear."

Dr. Nishimoto says cheap sunglasses that offer no protection could make matters worse. That's because the inexpensive dark lenses cause your pupils to dilate – and that allows even more harmful rays to injure your eyes.

"You always want to question the ones that are sort of off the shelf, the $5 to $10 type of sunglasses," says Nishimoto. "They may not have the proper absorption capability, so while things look darker and you feel like you might be protected because things are dimmer-looking, there's a question about the quality of the lenses."

So how do you know if the sunglasses you're wearing are doing more harm than good? Dr. Nishimoto recommends taking them to an optometrist and having them tested with a UV meter.  

He says no one should take their eyesight for granted. For many, going blind is one of the worst things that can happen, especially when it could have been prevented. 

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