Summer Sun, UV Rays, And Eye Safety Facts
‘Cause a little bit of summer is what the whole year is all about, John Mayer. We relax and enjoy the summertime, free spirit, and take in the sun with its UV rays. UV intensity tends to be highest during the summer months, April – August. The sun’s rays are strongest at the equator where the sun is most directly overhead and where UV rays must travel the shortest distance through the atmosphere. May 2023 is Summer Sun and Eye Care awareness month. The focus is to increase awareness about the dangers of UV light and know the impact of the sun’s UV rays on your eyes. Taking the appropriate steps like wearing UV-blocking sunglasses will protect your eyes, therefore, allowing you to have fun and enjoy the summer safely. This approach will lower your risk for potentially blinding eye diseases and tumors.
During the summer we usually spend long hours in the sun, and we often put on suncream/sunblock to protect our skin, and not our eyes. Our Eyes need protection as well. It is important to note that “UV radiation can come from natural sunlight and indoor artificial rays which can damage the eye’s surface tissues as well as the cornea. The retina, cornea, and macula generally remain permanently damaged when overexposed to UV light.
Ultraviolet Rays And Potential Eye Diseases ( AAO):
- Cataracts and eye cancers can take years to develop. Each time you bask in the sun without eye protection, you increase your risk of serious disease. Babies and children need to wear hats and sunglasses for this very reason. People of all ages should take precautions whenever they are outdoors.
- Cancer. Melanoma and basal cell and squamous cell cancers can develop on your eyelids and most often occur on the lower eyelids. Possible symptoms of eyelid cancer include eyelash loss, bleeding bumps, new spots on the eyelids that grow or have irregular borders, and chronic inflammation of the eyelids that doesn’t get better when you use medication. In some cases, melanoma can affect the middle layer of your eye and cause blurry vision, a spot on your iris, or a change in the shape of a pupil. Cancer can also develop in the conjunctiva.
- Growths on the eye, such as pterygium, can show up in our teens or 20s. Surfers, skiers, fishermen, farmers, and others who spend long hours under the midday sun or near rivers, oceans, and mountains are at risk.
- Conjunctival Growths. Sun exposure can also cause benign growths to form on the conjunctiva, the white part of your eye. The problem is more likely to occur if you live in an area that is very sunny year-round.
- Snow blindness, a form of photokeratitis, can quickly develop after exposure to UV reflections from snow, ice, sand, or water.
- Photokeratitis. Photokeratitis, snow blindness, causes an eye “sunburn.” If you are exposed to a significant amount of UV light in a few hours, such as if you spend the afternoon at the beach and do not protect your eyes, you may experience red eyes, tearing, sensitivity to light, and a feeling that something is stuck in your eyes. Photokeratitis usually goes away on its own.
- Macular Degeneration. Sun exposure can play a role in the development of macular degeneration, a condition that occurs when the cells in the center of your retina begin to deteriorate, affecting your ability to read, drive and recognize people.
AAO Recommendations For UV
The AAO wants people to check the UV rating before purchasing a pair of sunglasses. Make sure that the sunglasses you purchase provides 100% UV or UV400 protection, or block both UV-A and UV-B rays. You can click on this link if you are not sure about ( recommended types of sunglasses). Below are additional tips, regardless of the season, recommended by AAO to protect your eye from UV damage
- Wear a hat along with your sunglasses. Broad-brimmed hats are best.
- Protect children and senior citizens with hats and sunglasses. Everyone is at risk for sun damage.
- Know that clouds don’t block UV light. The sun’s rays can pass through haze and clouds.
- Sunlight is strongest midday to early afternoon, at higher altitudes, and when reflected off of water, ice, or snow.
- Never look directly at the sun. Doing so at any time, including during an eclipse, can damage the eye’s retina and cause a serious injury known as solar retinopathy.
- Avoid tanning beds. Tanning beds pose the same risks to your eyes and body as outdoor UV light.
The Sun And Positive Benefits (AAO):
- Aid us with getting a good night’s sleep, and the light-sensitive cells in our eyes play a critical role in our body’s natural wake-sleep process. This is critical for elderly people, and as we age, thus increasing the risk of insomnia.
- Studies have shown that when kids spend time outside, and exercising in the daylight can help prevent nearsightedness in kids.
- Bright outdoor light can help children’s eyes develop and maintain the correct distance between the lens and the retina, which keeps vision in focus.
Selecting The Right Sunglasses
Below are important factors that you must consider when selecting sunglasses (AOA and Dr. Citek):
- The lens should have 100% UV protection.
- Frames should be contoured, comfortable to wear, and fit close to the face and head—not too large and not too small.
- Alternately, if the front of sunglass frames is flat and not contoured, the temple arms should be wide enough to help prevent harmful UV rays from getting to the eyes through the sides of sunglasses.
- The density of the tint should be dark enough to allow the wearer to see comfortably in given lighting conditions.
- Further, tint color should not interfere with color vision, especially if wearers will use the sunglasses when driving or participating in other activities for which proper color perception is important.
- The tint should be polarized to help reduce glare from horizontal surfaces when driving, cycling, and during water activities (fishing, boating, etc.).
- Most importantly, be a discerning buyer. Purchase sunglasses from reputable vendors—premium-brand sunglasses at “bargain prices” may be counterfeit and may not provide the required UV protection. But legitimate low-priced sunglasses can provide the same UV protection as higher-priced models.
It is important that you contact us immediately if you believe or have sunburned eyes, and have questions about how to protect your eyes while engaged in outdoor summer activities.