Now that the summer months are here and our time spent outdoors is increasing, it is important to remember to protect our eyes from the sun. Just like we wear sunscreen to guard our skin from UV damage, our eyes need protected as well. For those bright and sunny days, simple steps can be taken to both provide comfortable vision and protect our eyes from harmful UV rays. To learn about what to keep in mind when it comes to choosing sun protection for your eyes, keep reading.
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UV Damage and Why Sunglasses Are Important for Eye Health
It is no secret that staring at the sun can be permanently blinding. Even without directly staring at the sun, day-to-day exposure to UV light can harm the eyes over time. Just like in our skin, high amounts of UV radiation activates dangerous free radicals in our eyes, which can cause damage from the front to the back of the eye. On the front of the eye, long-term sun exposure can cause overgrowth of tissue, leading to bumps on the ocular surface known as pingueculas or pterygiums. While these bumps are not necessarily painful, they can be cosmetically annoying, and some people find that they worsen symptoms of dryness and irritation. In some unfortunate cases pterygiums can even interfere with vision. UV exposure has also been proven to quicken the development of cataracts. There are even studies that suggest increased exposure to UV light can cause long-term retinal damage and can increase the risk of macular degenerations, a potentially blinding disease. Beyond damaging the actual ocular tissue, the skin surrounding the eyes is very fine and delicate, making it particularly susceptible to damage from UV radiation. It’s clear that UV light poses more significant risks to the eye than simply causing uncomfortable glare and squinting.
Protect Your Eyes from Harmful UV Rays
Luckily, effectively protecting your eyes from harmful UV light is as easy as wearing sunglasses. Larger sunglasses are better at blocking more UV rays, and also protect more of the skin around the eyes from potentially harmful exposure. It is important to remember that not all sunglasses are completely effective in blocking UV light, even if they appear to be entirely dark. Lenses need to block 95% of UVA/UVB rays or more in order to provide the eye with proper UV protection; an optician may be able to perform a measurement on your lenses to make sure your sunglasses are effectively blocking the harmful sunrays.
Beyond wearing sunglasses, consider adding a wide-brimmed hat to your summer wardrobe to provide even more protection. Hats may also be an effective method of providing young children with sun protection when they are resistant to keeping sunglasses on. Some lens materials, like hi-index lenses, provide a degree of UV protection without being tinted, and photochromatic lenses, which darken when exposed to sunlight, are also a convenient and effective way to protect the eyes from sun exposure. There has even been a recent release of a line of contact lenses that transition to a darker tint in the sunlight. In the future, we can be sure to see further developments in UV protection.