In the heart of July, the sun can shine its brightest. As kids, we were all taught to protect our skin in the summer, but Family Healthcare Associates wants to take a moment during “UV Safety Awareness Month” to focus on the danger the sun poses to our eyes—because exposure to UV radiation can harm a person’s vision and impact their eye’s health. The first thing to understand is how Ultra Violet (UV) rays work. Our sun emits three types: UV-A, UV-B, and UV-C, but only two types of UV rays pass through the ozone layer:
UV-A rays, can hurt your central vision, and damage the macula (which is the part of the retina in the back of the eye). But arguably more dangerous than UV-A rays are UV-B rays (which have higher energy levels) and are absorbed by the eye’s cornea and lens. Here are just a few eye conditions caused by UV radiation from the sun:
- Macular Degeneration: The leading cause of age-related blindness
- Cataracts: The clouding of the eye’s natural lens. UV light (UV-B in particular) is estimated to cause up to 20% of all cataract cases in the U.S
- Pterygium: A non-cancerous growth that forms over the white of the eye
- Cancer: In and around the eyelids is caused by prolonged UV exposure
- Photokeratitis: A corneal sunburn that can cause temporary loss of sight due to short-term exposure to UV-B rays
Now that you know a little about UV rays and how they can damage our eyes, here are 8 steps from The American Academy Of Ophthalmology that will help you protect your eyes from the summer sun.
- Avoid Peak UV Hours – Staying in the shade from 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. when UV rays are the greatest and the sun’s glare is the most intense.
- Protect Your Children’s Eyes, Too — Cover their eyes with UV sunglasses and wide-brimmed hats, and keep them out of the sun during peak hours.
- Wear UV Blocking Sunglasses — UV coating on eyewear is like sunscreen for your eyes. Always wear them when you’re outside, especially at higher altitudes, and make sure they block 100 percent of UV-A rays and UV-B rays.
- Don’t Rely on Contact Lenses —Even if you wear contact lenses with UV protection, they’re not always 100% effective. Remember your sunglasses.
- Never Stare at the Sun — Every parent warns their child about this because it’s true! Don’t even try it during a solar eclipse.
- Cloud Coverage Doesn’t Stop UV Rays—Protect your eyes even in bad weather. The sun’s rays can pass through haze and thin clouds.
- Be Diligent All Year —The sun can damage your eyes during Winter, Fall and Spring, too. So wear your sunglasses all year long.
- Protect Your Eyes In Tanning Beds – They can emit an even higher dose of UV rays than sunlight so wear UV blocking sunglasses, or tanning goggles.
With the sun’s UV rays feeling brighter and more intense every year, remember when you spend time with your family outdoors that sunlight reflected off of water, or pavement intensifies UV rays, making them more dangerous to your eye’s health.
Now that you’ve absorbed our crash course on summer eye safety, all of us at Family Healthcare Associates hopes you and your family will have fun in the sun.