How to protect your eyes from the sun

Exposing your eyes to UV rays from the sun can have short- and long-term effects on eye health.

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You open them every morning and use them every waking minute, but how much time do you spend thinking about their well-being? Protecting your eyes from daily wear and tear and powerful environmental factors, such as the sun, may not be high on your list of preventative health care concerns. But it’s summer, and your eyes deserve a little time in the limelight before heading out into the sunlight.

Best practices for eye health go beyond just having a pair of sunglasses in your car before you hit the beach or go for a hike. Different parts of the eye need to be taken into account, from the fragile skin around the eye to the parts that carry information to your brain. Below, we explain what can happen when you neglect your eyes, and some precautions you can take on behalf of your precious voyeurs.

Eye protection 101

While some sun exposure is healthy and can help with your body’s production of vitamin D, eyes are a sensitive part of the body and leaving them unprotected for too long can expose them to harmful UV rays, causing both short and long term effects. UV or ultraviolet radiation is defined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as “a form of non-ionizing radiation emitted by the sun and man-made sources, such as tanning beds.” (The CDC classifies three types of waves – UVA, UVB and UVC. UVC rays are absorbed by the ozone layer, according to the agency, so UVA and UVB rays are the main types of concern for your skin and your skin. eyes.)

Dr. William T. Reynolds, president of the American Optometric Association, says choosing sunglasses with UV (UVA and UVB) protection is the most important. You should wear sunglasses “outside, whether driving, at the beach and even on an overcast day,” according to Reynolds.

Reynolds says you should choose sunglasses that block 99-100% of UVA and UVB rays and filter 76-90% of visible light (the light that actually reaches your eye). Also, look for lenses that are “color matched and free of distortion and imperfection” and look for gray lenses, as this tint provides good color recognition. According to AOA guidelines on sunglasses, a gray tint on sunglasses can also make it easier to see when driving.

“The more time you spend outdoors in direct sunlight, the more people should consider wrap-around frames to protect the eyes,” says Reynolds. “Also, use sunscreen around your eyes and wear a hat or visor in addition to sunglasses to improve protection.” UV rays can also damage the skin of the eyelid, he says.

For those who wear corrective glasses, Reynolds says that eyeglasses can be made with UV protection and tints. “Some soft contact lenses also offer UV protection, which is useful when you’re not wearing sunglasses or when the sunglasses don’t provide adequate protection on the side or behind,” he says.

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Wearing a hat in combination with sunglasses and sunscreen provides additional protection for the area around your eyes.

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How the sun can damage your eyes

“The sun’s UV rays can damage the skin of the eyelid as well as the cornea, lens and other parts of the eye,” explains Reynolds. “Even short-term excessive exposure during a day at the beach can lead to photokeratitis.” Photokeratitis or “snow blindness” can also be called “eye sunburn” because it is basically what happens to the corneas (outer lens) of your eyes, depending on the eye. Cleveland Clinic. Besides direct sunlight, snow blindness can occur when UVA and UVB rays are reflected off snow, ice, water, sand or even cement and damage the eyes, according to the clinic.

Reynolds says some warning signs of overexposure and short-term effects are “red or itchy eyes, pain, sensitivity to light, swollen eyes, or a grainy feeling” in the eyes. Although photokeratitis is usually temporary, according to the AOA, more serious eye damage can be caused to the eyes with prolonged exposure.

“In the long term, when the eyes are exposed to sunlight, the greater the risk of developing cataracts, eye cancer, pterygium (surfer’s eye) or macular degeneration later in life,” explains Reynolds.

The surfer’s eye provokes abnormal tissue develop on the conjunctiva (membrane) of the eye, according to the AOA, sometimes causing blurred vision or irritation. Meanwhile, macular degeneration is the “primary cause severe vision loss in adults over the age of 50, “according to the AOA, resulting in central vision loss. Like macular degeneration, cataracts are commonly associated with advanced age, and can cause blurred vision and increased sensitivity to light, among other symptoms, according to the AOA.

Sun damage is no fun no matter which part of the body it affects. It’s possible to have a safe summer enjoying the rays while keeping your eyes safe and healthy.


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The information in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended for health or medical advice. Always consult a doctor or other qualified healthcare professional with any questions you may have about a health problem or health goals.

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