By our 2015 intern, Shasta Shields
The summer weather is finally here! That being said, it is important to protect your eyes from the dangerous ultraviolet rays. Most Americans are familiar with the hazards of ultraviolet rays to your skin, but few are familiar with the fact that ultraviolet (UV) radiation can also cause severe damage to your eyes. Sunglasses are a great fashion accessory, but most importantly, their job is to protect your eyes from the UV rays.
Too much sun in a short period of time can result in photokeratitis which means a “sun burn to the eye.” This can cause pain, blurred vision and even temporary vision loss. Some may carry on without precaution after this temporary condition heals, but with continued exposure to the ultraviolet rays this can cause more threatening eye diseases such as cataracts, cancer, loss of sight, and macular degeneration. The CDC informs us that between 10:00am and 4:00pm during the summer months, the sunlight is the strongest.
Two important ways to protect your eyes from UV rays are to know the dangers of UV rays and to wear proper eye protection and a brimmed hat or cap. When looking for eye protection, look for sunglasses that block out 99 to 100 percent of both UV-A and UV-B radiation. Individuals make this mistake when purchasing their sunglasses; most look for a fashion statement more than considering the importance to their eyes. Sunglasses should also have side protection that blocks ultraviolet light from entering from the sides and back of the frames. A wide brimmed hat/cap will limit UV rays that sneak in from above or around the glasses. Keep in mind that UV rays don’t just come right from the sun; they also reflect from the ground, water, snow, sand and other bright surfaces. Welding machines, tanning beds, and lasers also present increased risk of exposure to UV radiation.
Friends for Sight urges you to take control of your vision and protect your eyes from UV radiation by taking these steps along with the others above:
- Get regular eye exams with an eye doctor every two years if you are younger than 60.
- Do not smoke (smoking can cause UV radiation damage to progress quicker than with non-smokers).
For more information, Prevent Blindness is offering resources on eye health and the importance of protecting the eyes from the sun.