With winter coming to an end, many will soon be able to bask in the beauty that comes with the upcoming summer months. Warmer temperatures and sunny skies will soon begin to fill our days. While warm weather is easy to enjoy, the increased exposure to the sun can be very harmful. Just as ultraviolet (UV) rays from the sun can cause damage to your skin, they can also cause just as much damage to your eyes. While some see sunglasses as just a fashion accessory, they play an important role in protecting your eyes from the sun’s dangerous UV rays.
Causes of Harmful UV Rays
It is widely known that the sun’s UV rays can cause skin cancer in those who don’t choose to protect their skin or under-protect their skin. However, UV rays can also do irreparable damage to one’s eyes and vision. There are two types of UV rays that are both harmful to our eyes: UV-A and UV-B. UV-A rays target your central vision, causing damage to the macula which is the part of the retina found in the back of the eye while UV-B rays are absorbed mostly by the cornea and lens of the eye, but they can cause even more damage than UV-A rays.
Understanding the dangers of the sun and its UV rays give you a better grasp on how to properly protect your eyes. If you don’t take the necessary precautions, you are more susceptible to contracting these eye conditions:
- Macular Degeneration: UV rays damage the tissue in the eye to the point where it begins to deteriorate, leading to macular degeneration.
- Cataract: UV rays cause the development of cataracts, clouding over the eye’s lens, which is the part of the eye that focuses on light.
- Pterygium: This is the development of growths on the eyes found on the clear covering over the white part of the eye and may reach the cornea. These spots and bumps can also end up blocking your vision as well.
- Cancer: Skin cancer isn’t the only potential danger of exposure to UV rays. Ocular melanoma develops in the cells in or around the eyes.
- Photokeratitis: Often referred to as corneal sunburn, photokeratitis, is the result of high exposure to UV-B rays. These rays often are reflected off of snow, sand, or water, causing temporary sun blindness.
Tips to Protect Your Eyes from the Sun
The first step in properly defending your eyes from the sun is understanding its UV rays and the dangers they present. This will enable you to be more prepared to take the necessary steps in preventing you from developing any long-term eye conditions. Here are a few tips to protecting yourself from the sun:
- Invest in Good Sunglasses: Just because a pair of sunglasses have dark lenses or are expensive doesn’t mean they block UV rays. The same goes for polarized sunglasses which merely reduce sun glare. Look for sunglasses with a label that states they block 100% of UV rays.
- Wear Hats: Wide-brimmed hats help shade your eyes from the sun. Paired with proper sunglasses, a hat prevents UV rays from attacking your eyes from above sunglasses.
- Close-Fitting Frames: While making sure the lenses of your sunglasses block UV rays, it is equally as important to purchase frames that fit closely to your face so that no extra UV rays hit your eyes from around the sunglasses.
- Contact Lenses: Some contact lenses offer special UV protection. If you do wear contact lenses, ask your eye doctor if they offer contacts with added UV protection.
While enjoying sunny days is always fun, being mindful of how much exposure to the sun your eyes have can save you a lifetime of vision problems. If you feel as if you may have damage done to your eyes from UV exposure or you just wish to learn more about proper UV protection, then contact your local Arlington eye doctor here at First Eye Care North Arlington. We will be able to better prepare you to face the sun’s harmful rays.