You may not spend much time thinking about your eyes. Eyesight is easy to take for granted. In reality, our eyes are an important part of our life because 80% of what we perceive about our world comes through our eyes. Our eyes help us literally get around in this world. They help us do the work we do and enjoy our lives.
The function of our eyes, beyond the obvious, is to capture light and translate that light into visual images. But it is possible to have too much light. Especially when it comes to the light from UV rays emitted by the sun. Spending a lot of time in the sun without the benefit of sunglasses can give you a headache or even trigger a migraine. Too much sun exposure to your eyes causes photochemical damage resulting in “sunshine” cataracts which impede your ability to see clearly. Constant exposure to UV rays has also been shown to cause macular degeneration, solar retinitis, and corneal dysfunction.
Protecting Your Eyes
The simple solution to avoid damaging your eyes from sun exposure is to wear sunglasses every time you go outside. And while any sunglasses are better than nothing, the American Academy of Ophthalmology offers the following recommendations for selecting sunglasses:
- UV Protection: Choose sunglasses that have a UV400 rating or 100% UV protection on the label. These are designed to block UVA and UVB rays.
- Lens Style: Wrap-around lenses will block more UV rays than standard front lens sunglasses.
- Lens Type: Consider your activities. If you are going to be doing yard work or home improvement activities, your eyes need protection from objects that might hit your eyes. Choose a lens that is shatterproof to offer the best protection.
Although it’s currently summer, you may be surprised to learn that even in the winter, sun damage is also possible. The snow reflects 80% of UV rays which is what causes snow blindness, a result of overexposure to UV light. While people typically think of snowblindness only in winter, this condition can happen anytime the sun is exceptionally bright causing disorientation because of the damage to the cornea, the transparent outer layer of the eye.
Even if you’re wearing sunglasses, wear a hat! Sunglasses are great at protecting the front of your eyes, but unless you’re wearing sun goggles, the sun can still get to your eyes. The brim of a hat will give your eyes that extra bit of protection from the sun and you’ll be preventing sunburn on your face and scalp.
Avoid tanning beds. Tanning beds produce UV rays stronger than the sun which can cause serious damage to your eyes in an even shorter amount of time.
Another fun summer activity is swimming. And here again, is another threat to your eyes. Both indoor and outdoor pools use chemicals that are hard on the eyes. When you swim without the benefit of goggles you’re risking eye infections. And don’t swim in your contacts. Doing so makes you more susceptible to eye infections.
Remember to have your eyes checked regularly. Eyes change as we age.
“We don’t realize how critical eyesight is throughout our lives,” said Jacquelyn Smith, OD, GraceMed Optometrist. “When we’re young, good vision is critical to our ability to learn. Then when we are old, the ability to see clearly keeps us safe and preserves our independence. That’s why it’s so important to get regular eye exams throughout our lives and respond to any issues before they progress.”
In addition to the above wash your hands frequently. When you’re tired, your eyes are strained or you’re shielding your eyes, the temptation is to rub or touch your eyes. That’s an easy way to transmit germs into your eyes causing an infection. Rubbing your eyes can cause additional irritation as well.
We all know that you need to protect your skin when you’re out in the sun. But many people don’t realize that it’s equally important to protect your eyes. This summer, grab a pair of sunglasses before you head outside. Your eyes will serve you better and you’ll look great too!