“I’ve been teased about being ‘four-eyed’ since I was a child,” the award-winning actor jokes. “Several generations of my family have dealt with severe myopia.”

Gyllenhaal has had poor vision since he was a child, and every time his prescription changed his family encouraged him to donate his old frames. He is now an active fundraiser and advocate for the charity New Eyes for the Needy, often promoting its mission in the media.

New Eyes for the Needy has been providing children and adults in need with eyeglasses for decades and is based in Shore Hills, New Jersey. Since 1932, they have improved the eyesight of more than 7,500,000 people. You can help by donating, or recycling your old glasses.

“I hope to make my 96-year-old grandpa proud,” Gyllenhaal states.

The New Eye Safety Playbook

You might want to take a closer look at your vision health before it’s too late.

Why do we love the sun so much? The sun provides light, warmth and energy. Practically speaking, it is the go-to source for harnessing energy for agriculture and industry. Poetically speaking, it is the backdrop for long, lazy days at the beach.  However, the sun can also be damaging—not only to skin, but to the eyes. In fact, it can be deadl

According to Susan Thomas, associate director, public relations, American Optometric Association (AOA), ultraviolet (UV) exposure to the eyes can lead to vision impairment, age-related macular degeneration, skin cancer in the orbital area and cataracts.

It is important to recognize that UVA and UVB rays cannot be seen or felt—but they can lead to irreparable damage to the eyes. Fortunately, protecting eyes from UV radiation is simple—always wear sunglasses with 99 to 100 percent UVA and UVB protection.

Don't count on the clouds

Even one day in the sun without eyewear can have consequences.

Fraser C. Horn, O.D., director of Western Washington County Clinics at the College of Optometry says, “Just as too much short-term exposure to UV can cause a sunburn on your skin, it can cause a reaction on the cornea called photokeratitis.” Photokeratitis, literally eye sunburn, happens not only on bright sunny days, but also on snowy days, or as the result of sunlight reflecting off of water.

"Because children’s developing eyes are more transparent to UV, they are more vulnerable to UV damage."

According to information from the AOA, UV exposure to the eyes is a problem even on cloudy days, as overcast skies still allow 31 percent of solar radiation to reach the earth. UV rays are strongest between 10 am and 4 pm, and can be amplified at the beach, because of sand and water reflection—contributing an additional 25 percent UV radiation.

Irreversible damage

Children are at the greatest risk. Not only do they receive up to three times the annual sun exposure of adults, but based on survey feedback, almost 50 percent of parents report that their children “seldom” or “never” wear sunglasses with appropriate UV protection. And because children’s developing eyes are more transparent to UV than adults, they are more vulnerable to UV damage.

Thomas cautions that damage from UV is cumulative—it cannot be undone. She says, “We at the AOA see this as a public health issue. Remember—when you put on sunscreen, put on sunglasses. We take our vision for granted, yet is one of our most treasured senses.”