If you’re over age forty, you’ve probably noticed a change in your eyesight. It’s common at this age to begin to experience difficulty seeing up close. Reading on the computer may be more of a strain than it once was. Fine print anywhere becomes a challenge. When reading books, you may find yourself holding them closer, then farther, trying to find just the right distance to make the text legible. Finally, you get some magnifying glasses, perhaps the non-prescription type at first. Eventually, you’ll probably visit your eye doctor and get real glasses, which is what I did. I’m nearsighted (I have trouble seeing things that aren’t right in front of me) and have been for years. Once I hit forty, I became farsighted as well. Yup, without glasses, I have the unenviable condition of being unable to see far or near. And yeah, it’s as unpleasant as it sounds. My eye doctor added bifocals to my prescription. Instead of the old style with the line in the middle of the lens announcing how very old you are to the world, these days we have the privilege of wearing “progressive lenses,” which are great, because there’s no line to give away your age. I can’t see at all without my glasses, unless I’m wearing contacts, so my doctor recommended that in addition to the progressive lenses, I add “transitions,” which will darken outdoors, turning them into sunglasses. They’re convenient, obviously, because you don’t need an additional pair of prescription sunglasses. I wore them for over a year, pretty much every day. I live in a warm, sunny climate and I walk outside for exercise several days a week. I’m diligent about skin protection and never go in the sun without sunscreen on. Usually I wear a wide-brimmed hat as well. A year after wearing these bifocal sunglasses I realized that the skin on the tops of my cheeks, at the point where the sun goes through the bifocals, was drier than the skin on the rest of my face. It was also developing sun spots, enlarged pores, and it was beginning to sag a bit. At first, I attributed this to nothing more than the fact that I am getting older. Skin’s elasticity naturally declines over time. But then it occurred to me that this change in my skin was only evident in two spots at the tops of my cheeks. Hmm. I asked myself, what’s been different over the past several months? Of course, it was the bifocal sunglasses. Before wearing them, I wore my regular prescription sunglasses, the ones that were only for nearsightedness. The ones that do not have magnifying glass in them. Think about what a magnifying glass does with sunlight. Remember that experiment in school wherein you let the sun shine through a magnifying glass and it BURNED whatever was behind it? Exactly. Bifocals worn in the sun do the same thing. You are repeatedly exposing your face to a magnifying glass in the sun. Even though the glass does darken with progressives, reducing the UV rays, the penetration of light is still more intense through the magnification. And it’s directed right onto your skin. I don’t wear bifocals in the sun anymore. I use an old pair of prescription sunglasses without the bifocals and they’re fine for walking outside, or driving since I don’t have to read up close. If you’ve been wearing your bifocal progressives in the sun for a while and you notice that your skin looks a bit drier, darker, redder or more wrinkled than it used to on your cheeks, please take some precautions, because it will get worse over time. If you don’t catch it early, the damage will eventually become permanent. If you love your glasses and want to continue wearing them in the sun, be sure to:
- Add extra sunscreen with a high SPF on your cheeks. (30, or higher)
- Wear a wide-brimmed hat.
- If possible, avoid being outdoors between 11am and 2pm when the sun is strongest. Our eyesight inevitably changes as we age and so does our skin. (By Toni Ann Johnson)