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Protect your eyes with these 9 tips for everyday sun safety

Dr. Claire Fraser

Written by Dr. Claire Fraser, an ophthalmologist at UK Advanced Eye Care.

Now that the solar eclipse is over, it’s a good idea to review the basics of everyday sun protection for your eyes. Long-term exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation in sunlight can lead to damage on the inside and the outside of your eyes.

There is an increased risk of developing cancers of both the eyelids and the eye itself with increased exposure to the sun. Long-term sun exposure can also result in chronic eye irritation and non-cancerous growths. Sun exposure can even cause cataracts. Every time we are out in the sun without eye protection, we may be adding damage that increases our risk. These problems can take years to develop, but it’s never too early to protect your eyes.

Eye protection is important all year. Snow-blindness is a type of painful damage to the front of the eye that can occur when UV rays are reflected from ice and snow.

For these reasons, eye doctors recommend that you wear proper sunglasses and a brimmed hat when you’re in the sun for long periods of time. Here are nine tips for eye protection:

1. Choose the right sunglasses.

Look for sunglasses that offer at least 99 percent UV absorption. Glasses with 100 percent UV absorption are even better. This can also be indicated by a label stating, “UV absorption up to 400 nm.”

2. A darker lens isn’t always the best.

It can make your eyes feel more comfortable in bright light, but it doesn’t mean improved UV protection. A colored lens such as amber, green or gray can still have 100 percent UV absorption.

3. Large-framed lenses offer more protection.

Larger frames and wraparound styles allow fewer UV rays to reach the eye from around the glasses. This means more protection to the eyes and eyelids.

4. You don’t have to spend a lot of money.

There are excellent inexpensive options for sunglasses that offer 100 percent UV protection.

5. All sunglasses must meet impact standards.

These standards are set by the Food and Drug Administration for safety. Plastic lenses are less likely to shatter when hit by an object. For sports, get plastic lenses that offer shatter-protection.

6. Sun damage can happen during all seasons.

Don’t forget to protect your eyes during the winter months, especially when outside in the snow.

7. Tanning beds can cause severe eye damage.

Tanning beds can produce UV radiation levels up to 100 times higher than that from the sun.

8. Never look directly at the sun, even with sunglasses.

Looking directly at the sun at any time can lead to permanent damage to the center of your vision.

9. Protect your children’s eyes, too.

Don’t forget to protect your children’s eyes with hats and sunglasses. Damage from UV radiation adds up over time.


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Diagnosing eye cancer early preserves girl’s sight

When Kenley Overton’s parents took their infant daughter in for her four-month wellness checkup, they didn’t know much about retinoblastoma, the rare form of eye cancer that most commonly affects children. But that quickly changed.

Kenley was born Aug. 24, 2010, to Jason and Kendra Overton. When Kenley was a few weeks old, her parents noticed that her right eye would cross frequently. They brought it up to their local pediatrician during a wellness checkup and were told that it wasn’t abnormal for newborns.

However, when the Overtons brought Kenley in for her four-month wellness checkup, her right eye was still crossing. The pediatrician suggested Kenley see an eye doctor as it was likely she would need glasses to fix the issue.

In a whirlwind of appointments, Kenley first saw an optometrist who believed she had a detached retina. She was then referred to Dr. Peter J. Blackburn at UK Advanced Eye Care. After some testing, Blackburn diagnosed Kenley with retinoblastoma – a form of eye cancer that begins in the retina. Thirteen days after her wellness check, Kenley was scheduled for surgery with Blackburn to evaluate the situation and decide on a plan moving forward.

The best-case scenario

Retinoblastoma is a rare disease; only 200 to 300 children are diagnosed with it each year in the U.S. About three out of four children with retinoblastoma have a tumor in only one eye. Overall, more than 90 percent of children with retinoblastoma are cured, but the outlook is not nearly as good if the cancer has spread outside the eye.

Blackburn says that although there are no known avoidable risk factors for retinoblastoma, some gene changes that put a child at high risk for the condition can be passed on from a parent. Children born to a parent with a history of retinoblastoma should be screened for this cancer starting shortly after birth because early detection greatly improves the chance for successful treatment.

When Blackburn came out of surgery, he told the Overton family that Kenley’s cancer was only in her right eye – the best-case scenario.

He was pleasantly surprised because at Kenley’s young age, he had suspected the cancer might have been in both of her eyes. The decision was made to remove Kenley’s right eye that day.

In the years following her surgery, Kenley was regularly monitored to make sure the cancer hadn’t spread to her left eye. As Kenley continued to grow and show no signs of the retinoblastoma in her left eye, Blackburn became more confident that the cancer was limited to Kenley’s right eye.

Compassionate care at UK

Kendra Overton looks back on this difficult time in Kenley’s life and remembers how tough it was on her family. While taking care of Kenley, she and Jason also had to care for their older daughter, Jaylen, who was 4 years old at the time. But through the stress, she remembers Blackburn and the care he provided for Kenley.

“Dr. Blackburn was a very confident in the information he delivered about Kenley and her treatment plan, and he had a wonderful bedside manner,” she said.

She said Blackburn even took the time to pray with her family before Kenley’s surgery.

“At a time when we were falling apart, we really needed that and you don’t normally hear of doctors doing that,” she said.

Kenley is now a thriving 6-year-old. Kendra describes her daughter as naturally funny and someone who never meets a stranger. She just has a love for people, her mother says.

“Everyone who comes in contact with her says she is just so amazing,” Kendra said.


Next steps:

  • Learn more about UK Advanced Eye Care, which provides comprehensive care for patients of all ages  from routine eye exams to treatment for the most complex ophthalmic issues.
  • Earlier this year, UK Advanced Eye Care moved into a new state-of-the-art clinic that will allow us to provide even better care for our patients. Find out more about our new location.
eclipse safety

How to view the solar eclipse without hurting your eyes

On Aug. 21, sky gazers across the country will be treated to the sight of a total solar eclipse – a once-in-a-lifetime event where the moon passes between the sun and Earth, blocking the sun’s light for a brief period.

This awesome event is cause for excitement – and caution. Staring at the sun without protection – even briefly – can severely damage your eyes, so it’s important to know how to view the eclipse safely.

Here are some tips.

Get special glasses – and beware of fakes

Regular sunglasses will not protect your eyes while looking at the eclipse.

Thankfully, inexpensive special eclipse glasses are available that provide protection while still allowing you to watch the event. Beware, however, of glasses that are marketed as safe for the eclipse, but do not meet NASA’s recommended guidelines.

NASA advises you to only purchase eclipse glasses that are made by American Paper Optics, Rainbow Symphony, Thousand Oaks Optical or TSE 17 and also have the international safety standard ISO 12312-2 printed on them.

Find out if you’re in the path of totality

Although everyone in the continental United States will be able to see some part of the eclipse, only residents along a select path will be able to see the eclipse in totality – or the moment when the sun is completely covered by the moon.

This 70-mile-wide path stretches from the Pacific Northwest to the Southeast and includes portions of Western Kentucky. During the moment of totality, which may last for less than a minute in some locations, it is safe to view the the eclipse without glasses.

For those of us outside of the path of totality, however, glasses must be worn at all times. To see a map of the eclipse’s path of totality, visit NASA’s Eclipse 101 guide.

Follow these tips for a fun, safe viewing

No matter where you’re viewing the eclipse, keep these safety tips in mind:

  • Keep a close eye on kids watching the eclipse, and make sure they’re wearing eclipse glasses at all times.
  • Even if you’re wearing proper glasses, don’t view the eclipse through a camera, telescope or binoculars. The concentrated rays that comes through the optical device can damage the eclipse filter on your glasses and cause harm to your eyes.
  • If you normally wear eyeglasses, keep them on. Put your eclipse glasses on over them.
  • Look away from the sun when putting on and removing your eclipse glasses. Never take them off while looking at the sun.

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Many people know the dangers that exposure to sunlight can pose to the skin, but did you know it can also severely damage your eyes?

Here comes the sun! Get outside, but be sure to protect your eyes

Written by Shaista Vally, OD, an optometrist at UK Advanced Eye Care.

Dr. Shaista Vally

Dr. Shaista Vally

The weather is warming up, and sunshine, swimming and the great outdoors are on everyone’s mind. While there is a lot of fun to be had in the summer, we must also consider how to adequately protect our eyes and skin, which can be damaged by prolonged exposure to sunlight.

Wear sunglasses with UV protection

Exposure to the sun’s ultraviolet A (UVA) and ultraviolet B (UVB) radiation can cause sunburns and in some cases lead to cancer. UV radiation can also be a catalyst for cataracts, an eye condition marked by blurred vision. The best way to keep your eyes safe in the sun is to wear sunglasses with UV protection that prevent UV rays from entering the eye.

The American National Standards Institute (ANSI) determines the safety of ophthalmic sunglasses and verifies that they can prevent ultraviolet radiation from damaging the eye. Look for the “ANSI” symbol and “UV protection” when purchasing sunglasses. Keep in mind that cheaper shades are more affordable and trendy, but they may not offer you any protection from ultraviolet radiation.

In fact, wearing sunglasses without protection from ultraviolet radiation can actually do more harm than wearing nothing at all. When you wear nothing over your eyes, your tendency is to squint or keep your eyes closed, and the brightness naturally makes your pupils constrict, allowing fewer harmful rays to enter your eye. But your eyes dilate slightly when you wear tinted lenses, which lets more harmful rays enter your eye.

Apply sunscreen around your eyes

Additionally, the eyelid and eyebrow region is especially susceptible to basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma and melanoma, which make up 5 to 10 percent of all skin cancers. Because the skin around the eye is very thin and contains very little subcutaneous tissue, it makes it easier for tumors to spread to nearby nasal and orbital cavities. Sunscreen with SPF is a simple way to prevent damage to the skin, but people often overlook applying sunscreen to their eyelids and area around their eyes as it often irritates their skin.

Buying facial lotions formulated for sensitive skin and applying a small amount with your eyes closed can prevent it from burning. Some people find that applying their daily facial cream first and allowing it to dry before applying SPF lotion helps prevent sunscreen irritation.

Get out there and enjoy the sunshine, but don’t forget to apply SPF sunscreen around your eyes and wear some UV-protected sunglasses!


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April is Women’s Eye Health and Safety Month, the perfect time for women to learn more about eye issues that affect them more regularly than men.

Women, here’s what you should know about your eyes

Dr. Shaista Vally

Dr. Shaista Vally

Written by Shaista Vally, OD, an optometrist at UK Advanced Eye Care.

Eye health and vision issues can affect everyone, but there are certain conditions that are more common in women than in men. April is Women’s Eye Health and Safety Month and a great time for women to learn more about the issues that uniquely affect them.

Dry eyes, migraines

With women’s hormonal changes being so frequent throughout their lifetime, including changes associated with birth control, it’s no wonder that women experience eye and vision issues linked with hormonal changes. Two such issues include dry eyes and migraines.

Dry eyes can be annoying and debilitating, but the good news is that they are easy to treat. Artificial tears, emulsions, gels and ointments can offer relief for dry eyes. If heavy lubrication with artificial tear eye drops is not working to manage your symptoms of burning, redness and irritation, speak with your eye doctor about alternative treatment options.

Migraines are severe, painful headaches sometimes accompanied by symptoms of nausea, numbness, light and noise sensitivity, and vomiting. But they can also cause visual disturbances known as scintillating scotomas. These moving lights and patterns, sometimes called a visual aura, can mimic the signs of a retinal detachment or tear. If you see flashes of light or spots in your view, be sure to have a dilated eye exam within 24 hours of these symptoms.

Eye issues linked to obesity

With diabetes and cardiovascular disease on the rise, Americans – both men and women – are struggling with obesity. However, overweight young women of child-bearing ages are at an increased risk for a condition known as idiopathic increased intracranial pressure, or pseudotumor cerebri. This condition causes an increase in brain pressure, damaging the optic nerves and potentially leading to blindness.

Women with pseudotumor cerebri often complain of headaches, ringing sounds in their ears and mild visual blurriness, though sometimes visual symptoms are not present at all. If you think you may be at risk for this condition and are experiencing any of these symptoms, contact your eye doctor to schedule a comprehensive eye exam.


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A floater is a dark spot or squiggly line that enters your vision when the eye moves. They can be bothersome, but how can you tell if they're serious?

Eye floaters are common with age but may signal a more serious problem

Dr. Claire Fraser

Written by Dr. Claire Fraser, an ophthalmologist at UK Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences.

Have you ever noticed the sudden appearance of a black dot in your field of vision that moves around when you move your eyes? It could also look like a cob web. You try blinking, but it just won’t go away. It’s called a floater, and it can be quite bothersome especially if you’re trying to read or do other close work. But what exactly are floaters?

A floater may appear as a dark gray or black spot, circle, or squiggly line that drifts in the vision as the eye moves. Floaters are most noticeable in bright sunlight or when looking at a white background. What we see as a floater is actually a shadow cast by a small condensation of something inside the eye called vitreous gel.

Does everyone have floaters?

No, but they are very common and are more likely to occur with age. Vitreous gel liquefies with age, causing spots of condensation within the gel. Those become the floaters that we see. Eventually the vitreous gel separates from the retina, forming a posterior vitreous detachment (PVD).

This happens to most people at some point during their lives. A new central floater often appears when the PVD occurs and intermittent light flashes may be present. The risk of a retinal tear is highest during the month after a PVD occurs because gel that is stuck to the retinal surface may cause a tear as it separates.

When should I be concerned?

You should seek immediate evaluation by an ophthalmologist if you see new floaters, the floaters are accompanied by flashing lights or part of your vision becomes dark. Floaters that appear red could indicate bleeding inside the eye, which is another indication for urgent evaluation.

Symptoms like flashing lights, multiple new floaters, decreased vision or bleeding inside the eye can be the first sign of a retinal tear or retinal detachment, which can lead to permanent vision loss. Early treatment offers the best chance for preservation and recovery of vision. A retinal tear can often be treated with an in-office laser procedure to prevent retinal detachment and loss of vision.

Other important causes of floaters include diabetes, injury to the eye, inflammation (uveitis) and infection.

Will my floaters go away?

Over time, the brain learns to ignore floaters in the eyes. This process usually takes months. The floaters themselves may also settle to the bottom of the eye and move out of center vision.

Occasionally floaters can impair vision enough that a surgical procedure called a vitrectomy is needed to remove the vitreous gel. Most people find that floaters become much less noticeable over time and surgery is not needed.

Laser treatment of floaters to break them up into small particles has significant risk and has not yet gained wide acceptance. Eye drops and diet modification have not been shown to decrease floaters.

Most patients find that time is the best medicine.


UK Ophthalmology, now known as UK Advanced Eye Care, is moving! Beginning March 20, all appointments will be located in leased space within the new Shriners Medical Center for Children building, just across South Limestone from UK Albert B. Chandler Hospital.  This new space is not only beautiful, it’s state-of-the-art and will allow us to better serve our patients. We hope you’re as excited as we are.


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Dry eye is common and easily treated

Written by Dr. Seema Capoor, associate professor in the Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences at the UK College of Medicine.

Dr. Seema Capoor

Dr. Seema Capoor

It’s not uncommon for your eyes to become dry and uncomfortable. Factors like irritants in the environment, age, gender, certain medications or medical conditions can leave your eyes feeling gritty, itchy or irritated.

Tears are necessary for healthy eyes and clear vision. Dry eye syndrome, or DES, is a condition where the eye does not produce enough tears to keep the eyes well hydrated. Dry eye is a common and often chronic problem, but the good news is it’s usually easily treated.

Dry eye can be attributed to a number of factors, such as antihistamine or diuretic use, cigarette smoking, exposure to second-hand smoke, and environmental factors such as air drafts and low-humidity. DES can be classified as mild, moderate or severe. In the majority of patients, the condition is not sight-threatening and is characterized by troublesome symptoms of irritation, redness and intermittently blurred vision. If these symptoms are persistent, you should see your ophthalmologist, who can easily diagnose the condition with a simple external examination of the eye lids and cornea

The primary approaches used to manage and treat dry eyes include adding tears, conserving tears, increasing tear production, and treating the inflammation of the eyelids or eye surface that contributes to the dry eyes. Mild cases can be treated with artificial tears, emulsions, gels and ointments.

Moderate cases of DES can be treated with anti-inflammatory therapies such as Restasis, and topical steroids may be considered. Use of omega-3 fatty acid supplements has been reported to be beneficial.

Oral medications such as immunosuppressives are sometimes prescribed when DES is more severe. Also, humidifying ambient air and avoiding air drafts by using shields and by changing the characteristics of airflow at work, at home, and in the car may be helpful.

Measures such as lowering the computer screen to below eye level to prevent your eyes from opening too wide, scheduling regular breaks during the work day, and increasing blink frequency may decrease the discomfort associated with computer and reading activities.

Patients with severe DES are at greater risk for contact lens intolerance and should be cautioned that refractive surgery, particularly LASIK, may worsen their dry eye condition.


Next steps:

  • Dry eyes aren’t just annoyance, they’re a real medical issue. Learn more dry eyes.
  • We provide comprehensive eye care at a number of locations across Kentucky. Find out more UK Ophthalmology & Visual Sciences.