The sun and your eye health

Health and Fitness, Latest News, Topics, What You Should Know

Every year when summer weather approaches, we are reminded to put on sunscreen every time we venture outdoors to prevent skin cancer. But did you know it’s just as important to protect your eyes from the sun’s harmful rays?

Sunlight contains ultraviolet (UV) radiation and too much exposure raises your risk of eye diseases and other problems. Protecting your eyes at an early age is vital as several studies have shown that the effects of UV exposure builds up over time and may increase the chance of developing eye problems later in life.

The skin is our bodies most outer layer and our eyes also contain an outer covering, called the cornea.  Just as our skin can be subject to sunburn, so can the cornea, a condition called photokeratitis. This painful inflammation is caused by unfiltered UV ray exposure. Long term unfiltered UV ray exposure can cause or accelerate cataract development, lead to growths on the white of the eye (sclera) called pterygium, as well as a rare form of eye cancer called squamous cell carcinoma of the conjunctiva.

Protecting your eyes from harmful UV radiation is your best defense. Sunglasses are a great place to start as long as you know what to look for. Choose sunglasses that provide 100% UV or UV400 protection, or block both UV-A and UV-B rays. Be aware that sunglasses will only block UV rays from entering the lens, not the top or sides.  Wraparound sunglasses or those with large frames along with wearing a broad brimmed hat can provide additional protection.  

Remember that sunlight is strongest in the midday to early afternoon and can be reflected off water, ice, or snow. Tanning beds pose the same risks to your eyes as the UV rays from the sun. The sun’s rays can also pass through clouds and haze, so even if its cloudy, remember to protect your eyes.  
Everyone is at risk for eye damage related to exposure to UV ray exposure. Protect yourself and your family by practicing sun safety every day.