As summer fast approaches people love to spend time in the sun, playing at the beach, gardening, swimming or a myriad of other activities. Most people know to reach for the sunscreen to protect their skin and prevent premature aging and skin cancer. However, did you know that those same rays can damage your eyes? Our eyes require protection from overexposure to the sun and glare reflecting off of surfaces like water, snow, sand, and roads. Such protection can help to prevent serious vision problems, such as cataracts, macular degeneration and photokeratitis, a sunburn to your cornea and conjunctiva.
We commonly talk about ultraviolet (UV) rays, more specifically UVA and UVB rays, when considering eye or skin damage. Ultraviolet rays are invisible, but unavoidable. While less intense, UVA rays are still damaging to the eye because they are more prevalent and penetrate more deeply. UVB damage is limited to the cornea and the sclera (white of the eye) because they cannot penetrate the front of the eye even though they are more intense. Less commonly discussed are HEV (high-energy visible) rays that may play a part in macular degeneration risk. While they are less intense than UV rays, they are still able to penetrate deep into the eye.
How can you protect your eyes against these damaging rays? It should start early, during childhood, to avoid accumulative effects. The solution is simple, sunglasses that are designed to filter damaging rays, not just reduce brightness. What features should you look for when purchasing sunglasses?
- Polarized lenses that reduce glare & eliminate UV light, both UVA and UVB
- Lenses that filter HEV rays
- Frames and lenses that offer maximum eye coverage
How do you know that the sunglasses you have purchased will fill all the requirements? It is recommended you see an eye care professional that can work with your individual needs to assure your eyes are protected. Don’t let the sun spoil your summer fun, just make sure you take the necessary precautions to protect your valuable gift of sight.
Richard Orlando, M.D