People who work with radiation-producing equipment must wear protective gear to prevent absorption of x-rays while performing the test or treatment. Protective eyewear is very important because the human eye is very sensitive. Unprotected eyes may not be painful upon minimal exposure; but pain, swelling and first-degree burns may develop a few hours later. Because damage from exposure to x-ray radiation increases over time, those who work with radiation on a daily basis are at risk. The development of posterior subcapsular cataracts, which are cataracts in the back of the membrane that surround the eye's lens, are caused by lack of eye protection and can lead to significant eye damage.
Lead glasses can prevent much of the damage from exposure of the eye to radiation. They have been shown to reduce x-ray radiation exposure by up to 98 percent. Lenses made of leaded glass containing a layer of lead (Pb) that is 0.75 millimeters (mm) thick provide adequate protection against exposure to rays in front of the eye. Scatter rays that might otherwise reach the eye from the sides can be stopped by glasses with side shields containing a lead equivalent of 0.50 mm Pb.
Patients also benefit from wearing lead glasses during x-ray procedures to prevent unintentional exposure that otherwise might occur from scatter rays. Further, specialized glasses worn by patients receiving ophthalmic plaque radiation therapy allow the patient to be able to live at home during treatment. In this therapy, a plaque, which is a small metallic carrier containing radioactive seeds, is sutured to the wall of the eye. The seeds irradiate the tumor and destroy or deactivate it. Once the tumor has been destroyed, the carrier is surgically removed. While the plaque is in the patient's eye, he is radioactive. Wearing lead glasses prevents rays from reaching other family members or pets. If the eye that is receiving treatment has vision, the glasses allow the patient to continue using that eye. Before such patients wore lead glasses, they had to use a leaded patch over the affected eye, which totally blocked vision.
Those who need to protect their eyes from radiation exposure can choose from a wide variety of lens and frame styles. Most carry a two-year manufacturer warranty. Lenses can be prescription or non-prescription. Some frames fit over existing glasses. There are adjustable frames, flexible frames and frames molded to fit the wearer's face. Side shields are an option. For anyone whose eyes are exposed to radiation, lead glasses provide peace of mind by greatly reducing the risk of eye damage.
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