by Jaime Rodriguez, RDPFS Intern
As the school year concludes and summer approaches, many people will be venturing outside to enjoy fun in the sun. Before hitting the pool or beach, please remember that proper eye care and protection are essential. Excessive sun exposure can be harmful to your body, especially your eyes. Here are a few tips to enjoy summertime activities safely, by protecting your eyes.
When going outside, use proper sunglasses. The eyes can get “sunburned” through a condition called photokeratitis, which can cause severe eye pain and even temporary blindness. Sun can also cause glare, making it more difficult to see, especially for individuals with eye conditions where glare sensitivity may be an issue, such as macular degeneration or glaucoma. To avoid eye damage, wear sunglasses that provide protection from ultraviolet (UV) rays including those that block both UVA and UVB rays, which are responsible for sunburn, that can damage the eyes and skin. UV sunglasses with 400 UV Protection are excellent for outdoor activities because they block out nearly 100% of the sun’s damaging rays. It is also worth noting that glasses with a blue tint should not be used outdoors as they emit UV light which can damage the eyes. When choosing sunglasses, polarized lenses are best to reduce glare. And brown, grey, green or yellow lenses reduce color distortion.
For extra eye protection, pair your UV blocking sunglasses with a hat or visor to block sunlight from reaching your eyes and cover areas that sunglasses may miss. Also, remember that cloudy weather doesn’t mean UV rays aren’t reaching your eyes, so always protect your eyes when going outside for extended periods of time. Excessive sunlight can increase your risk of developing cataracts as well as age-related macular degeneration.
For water-related activities, it is important to wear eye protection as well. When going to the pool, in the ocean, or any body of water, wear goggles. Goggles protect your eyes from chemicals like chlorine and from bacteria in the water which could cause eye irritation or infection. When choosing goggles, select the proper size to cover your eyes fully, with no gaps, to prevent water from getting into the eyes. When you are done with water-related activities, splash your face with clean water to wash away any remnants of sea or pool water. It is also a good idea to carry eye drops to use after swimming. Check with your eye care professional to see what kind of drops are right for you, whether they are available over-the-counter or through a prescription.
So when you go outside this summer, protect your eyes. You’ll be glad you did. For more information about proper eye care during the summer read the Nevada Blind Children’s Foundation article, “Eye Care Tips for Summer.” You may also read The University of Chicago Medical Center’s article, “Can your eyes get sunburned? 10 answers to your biggest summer eye care questions” or the Cleveland Clinic’s Health Essentials article, “How to Choose the Best Sunglasses for Your Eye Health – They’re more than a fashion statement.”