It’s easy to remember to apply sunscreen on these hot summer days. A sunburn reminds us all too well that we have forgotten to protect our skin. But what about our eyes? Overexposure to the sun can be extremely damaging to our eyes, resulting in cataracts, cancer and age-related macular degeneration. While not immediately noticeable, eye damage is gradual and by the time it is diagnosed it cannot be undone.
UV radiation from the sun or a tanning bed can harm the lens, cornea and surface tissues of your eyes, so you must take precautions. Simply wearing UV-blocking sunglasses will allow you to enjoy outdoor activities while lowering your risk for eye diseases and tumors. It is easy to remember to wear sunglasses on bright, sunny days, but it’s also important to remember that harmful UV rays can penetrate through clouds and haze. UV protection is just as essential in the winter when there is snow on the ground! Making sunglasses a part of your daily routine when you are driving, doing yard work or recreating outdoors will give you maximum protection.
Sunlight is the most intense in the mid-day to afternoon hours, so UV rays will be the most damaging at these times. Keep those sunglasses on when you are at the pool or on the lake, too, because the reflection of the water makes UV rays even stronger. Going hiking or rock climbing? UV exposure increases with altitude, so wear those shades to give maximum protection.
The American Academy of Ophthalmology has made the following recommendations about eye protection:
- Choose sunglasses labeled “100% UV protection.” Purchase sunglasses that block UV-A and UV-B rays and are marked UV400 or 100% UV Protection.
- If possible, find a wrap-around style of sunglasses that will protect your eyes from the sides and not just the front.
- Wear a hat as well as sunglasses to give added shade.
- Even if your contact lenses protect from UV rays, still wear eye UV-blocking sunglasses.