UV Eye Safety
Sunscreen is only one way to protect yourself in the summer. As eye professionals we should be reminding paitents to protect their eyes. Just as dermatologists are recommending sunscreen to their paitents we should be recommending eye protection. The UV light from all that summer fun has been directly associated with an increased the risk of developing cataracts, age-related macular degeneration (ARMD) and growths on the eye, including cancer.
Wearing UV blocking sunglasses is an effective and easy way to protect your eyes and it’s never too early to start. The UV exposure is cumulative and should be started young. Don’t underestimate your child’s ability to wear a pair of sunglasses. They may find it fun!
In addition to cataracts and ARMD, sun exposure can lead to lesions and tumors that may be cosmetically unappealing and require surgical removal. Pinguecula, tiny yellow bumps on the eye, are common from too much UV exposure. They begin on the white part of the eye and may eventually disrupt your vision.
The American Academy of Ophthalmology offers these tips to protect your eyes from the sun:
- Don’t focus on color or darkness of sunglass lenses: Select sunglasses that block UV rays. Don’t be deceived by color or cost. The ability to block UV light is not dependent on the price tag or how dark the sunglass lenses are.
- Check for 100 percent UV protection: Make sure your sunglasses block 100 percent of UV-A rays and UV-B rays.
- Choose wrap-around styles: Ideally, your sunglasses should wrap all the way around to your temples, so the sun’s rays can’t enter from the side.
- Wear a hat: In addition to your sunglasses, wear a broad-brimmed hat to protect your eyes.
- Don’t rely on contact lenses: Even if you wear contact lenses with UV protection, remember your sunglasses.
- Don’t be fooled by clouds: The sun’s rays can pass through haze and thin clouds. Sun damage to eyes can occur anytime during the year, not just in the summertime.
- Protect your eyes during peak sun times: Sunglasses should be worn whenever outside, and it’s especially important to wear sunglasses in the early afternoon and at higher altitudes, where UV light is more intense.
- Never look directly at the sun. Looking directly at the sun at any time, including during an eclipse, can lead to solar retinopathy, damage to the eye’s retina from solar radiation.
- Don’t forget the kids: Everyone is at risk, including children. Protect their eyes with hats and sunglasses. In addition, try to keep children out of the sun between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m., when the sun’s UV rays are the strongest.