The summer months mean spending more time outdoors in the bright sunlight. But when certain precautions are not taken, sun exposure can jeopardize the health and safety of the eyes.
The American Academy of Ophthalmology designates July as “UV Safety Month” to raise awareness about the importance of protecting the eyes from the sun.
Below, our team of eye doctors at Vista Eye Specialists explains why the sun can be dangerous to the eyes and how to make sure you are protecting yourself as best possible.
What Sunlight Can Do to the Eyes
Research indicates that long-term exposure to sunlight can increase the risk of numerous serious eye problems, including:
- Eye growths (pterygium, pinguecula)
- Macular degeneration
- Photokeratitis (i.e., a sunburn of the eyes)
- Ocular cancer
The longer the eyes are exposed to the sun, the greater the chances of developing one of these conditions.
How to Protect Your Eyes from the Sun
Wear sunglasses and hats: The most important way to shield your eyes from the sun is by wearing sunglasses and wide-brimmed hats. Make sure your sunglasses offer adequate protection from UVA and UVB rays. New sunglasses should have a tag or sticker that indicates they offer “UV400” or “100% UV” protection. If you spend a lot of time outdoors, you might want to look into a wraparound sunglass style so that sunlight cannot creep in the side of the frames.
Stay in the shade during peak hours: It’s best to avoid direct exposure to the sun between the hours of 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. (peak sunlight hours).
Wear sunscreen: Applying sunscreen with a Sun Protection Factor (SPF) of at least 30 can protect the delicate skin around the eyes.
Be especially careful around sand and water: Ultraviolet rays can reflect off of surfaces like sand and water. Sunlight is also very strong when reflected off snow, so you will need to be careful during the winter months, too.
Avoid tanning beds: Indoor artificial rays are just as harmful to the eyes and skin as bright sunlight. Avoid tanning beds at all costs; if you like a golden glow, try a spray tan instead.
Look at your medication labels: Certain medications, like antibiotics, can increase sensitivity to UV radiation. Read through your medication labels to determine your risk (if any).
Contact Vista Eye Specialists
If you have questions about any of the information in this post and would like to speak with one of our doctors, please call or email Vista Eye Specialists today.