It’s JUNE…welcome summer! Longer days, warmer weather, and the restorative power of sunshine! What’s not to love about summer?
A short answer…dangerous UV rays. While the sunshine lifts your mood, warms your world and brightens your outlook, it can also have a dark side. There’s hidden dangers in those welcoming rays, and you need to focus on keeping yourself safe. Sunscreen is a must, but you need to protect more than your skin from the sun. Your eyes are extremely vulnerable to the dangers of the sun, and you need to make sure you’re doing all you can to prevent permanent damage to your sight.
Sunlight is made up of two types of harmful rays, long wave ultraviolet A (UV-A) and short wave ultraviolet B (UV-B). How long you can stay out in the sun without protection is different for everyone – it’s based on variables such as the amount of pigmentation in your skin and the color of your eyes. Because there’s no hard and fast number to stick to, it’s best not to take risks at all and always do everything you can to stay safe in the sun.
If you’re out in the sun without protection for a short time, you may only suffer minor damage to your eyes. While painful, a sunburn to the cornea - the front portion of the eye - doesn’t usually have long term effects. Known as photokeratitis, it will cause dryness, irritation, grittiness and extra sensitivity to light. Your eyes or the surrounding tissue may have pink or reddish tint, reminding you that sunburned skin is more likely to develop squamous cell and basal cell cancers. Remember that UV-A rays will also cause wrinkling, giving you yet another reason to protect the skin around your eyes.
If you’re outside without protection for longer periods of time, you may suffer more serious damage to your eyes. Chronic conditions such as cataracts and macular degeneration have been linked to excessive sun exposure stimulating the formation of free radicals. Although free radical production is a normal sign of aging, we can slow the process by taking care to control certain environmental factors such as the amount of UV exposure we get.
Here’s some great tips from your optometrist to keep your eyes safe this summer!
- Never wear cheap sunglasses. Low cost, low quality shades such as the ones you’ll find in discount stores aren’t designed to filter UV rays. In fact, they do just the opposite. When your pupils enlarge to let in more light, the cheap lenses actually serve as window to let in larger amounts of UV rays. Even if the label says they filter UVA and UVB rays, there is a huge disparity between the quality of the lenses in mass produced inexpensive eyewear and a quality product. In this case, you truly get what you pay for.
- One pair doesn’t fit all. It’s smart to get a vision exam before purchasing your sunglasses to ensure you’re not only protecting your eyes, but providing the best level of vision correction if it’s necessary. Make sure the sunglasses you wear fit your face perfectly. It’s important to work with your eye doctor to make sure the frame not only suits the size and shape of your face, but that it provides optimum protection from the sun. Whether it’s tough and serviceable or a chic designer frame, your sunglasses need to be the proper size to do their job well. This is especially important for children – they can outgrow their sunglasses easily from season to season. Which brings us right to our next point…
- Kids and teens must develop good sun protection habits. They’re usually outside more often than adults during the summer, and it’s essential they learn to always wear their sunglasses. It’s a great idea to combine their yearly vision test with a fitting for new sunglasses; it ensures they’ll be ready for the new school year as well.
- Do your homework. Look for lenses that block 100% of both UV-A and UV-B rays, and screen out 75-90% of visible light. You should also consider the types of activities you’ll be doing while wearing your sunglasses. Polarized lenses reduce the glare that bounces off water or flat surfaces such as light-colored pavement, polycarbonate lenses are better suited for eye-hazardous work or contact sports, and single or double-gradient lenses are recommended for driving or participating in activities where visual acuity is important.
- Consider if Transitions lenses are right for you. These lenses are clear when you’re indoors but darken when exposed to UV light outside. All Transitions lenses have 100% UV protection. The downside is they aren’t as dark as a pair of traditional sunglasses. It can also take some time for them to lighten again when you head back inside. Most Transitions lenses won’t darken in your car because windshields are made to block most of the UV light. For driving, make sure you get the DriveWear Transitions lenses. If you don’t want to juggle two pairs of glasses, Transitions could be your perfect solution!
- What you eat matters. For optimum eye health, add omega-3 rich fish, nuts, seeds, citrus, carrots, eggs, sweet potatoes, lean beef, dark green leafy vegetables and anti-inflammatory foods to your daily diet. Keeping well hydrated with cool water is not only good for your eyes, it’s always great advice in the summertime!
Ready for sunglasses season? It’s time to schedule an appointment with the top Houston eye doctors at Pro-Optix Eye Care to welcome summer! Don’t wait – the great outdoors is calling. Call us too…713-360-7095.