As the summer draws to an end, sunny days will soon be behind us. However, as we begin to transition into fall it’s important to still keep in mind the damage that can come from sun exposure, especially to our eyes. While applying sunscreen is a natural habit for many throughout the summer, the habit should actually happen year around. The same can be said in protecting one’s eyes from UV rays. Your eyes are just as important to protect as it is for the rest of our body.
In order to understand how to protect our eyes, we first need to understand how UV radiation works. UV rays, which are invisible to the naked eye, come in two different forms:
Cataracts which is a clouding of the eye’s natural lens, and is the most common cause of blindness. This is the part of the eye that focuses the light we see.
Corneal sunburn (or photokeratitis), which is the result of high short-term exposure to UV-B rays, usually after spending long hours outside during the summer without proper eye protection. These burns can be painful and may cause temporary vision loss.
Macular Degeneration which is a leading cause of vision loss among older people, causing loss of vision in the center of the visual field.
Pterygium which is a growth that begins on the white of the eye and may involve the cornea. The growth may eventually block vision and is common among people who spend considerable time in the sun and wind.
UV rays can affect anyone, so it is important to always keep sun safety tips in mind. Fortunately, it takes quite a bit of exposure to cause any serious damage to the eyes. Those who are most at risk of sun-related eye problems will most likely have the following characteristics:
How can I stay protected?
The good news is that anyone can greatly reduce their risk for eye diseases by implementing several easy and inexpensive precautionary measures. A few of the most effective methods are listed below:
Wear UV-protection sunglasses. Wrap-around sunglasses are the best because they protect your eyes and the skin around them. As a rule when choosing sunglasses, make sure they reduce glare, filter out 99 – 100 percent of UV rays and are comfortable to wear. Try to purchase sunglasses that provide a clear statement about how much UV radiation is blocked.
Wearing a brimmed hat or visor can also keep the sun out of your eyes. When selecting a hat or visor, try choosing something that has at least a 3” brim, which can help keep up to 50% of UVB rays off of your face.
Other types of eyewear can absorb UV rays, such as prescription glasses and contact lenses. When you visit your doctor for a physical as about options such as UV-blocking lens materials, coatings, and photochromic lenses.
If you don’t have access to the above options, attempt to seek shade whenever outside for extended periods. UV radiation is usually most harmful between 10am—4pm, so try to stay out of extremely lit areas during this period.
Overall, while eye diseases can cause serious damage there are many easy options to keep yourself and your loved ones fully-protected. For more information you can check out the National Prevent Blindness website for details about eye diseases, or the American Academy of Ophthalmology’s tips on how to pick the best sunglasses.