Eye damage caused by the sun can easily occur at any time during the year, since the sun constantly releases ultraviolet (UV) rays which are invisible to the naked eye but can still cause significant damage, including health problems such as cataracts, macular degeneration and cancer.
We already know about the dangers of skin cancer and premature aging, which is why many of us wear sun cream to protect ourselves or avoid the use of sunbeds. Likewise, to prevent serious problems to our vision, we also need to ensure we are taking the right steps to protect our eyes from the sun’s powerful UV rays.
We enlisted the help of Brawn Ophthalmics, suppliers of diagnostic eye equipment and providers of ophthalmic repairs, to tell us how we can keep our eyes safe in the sun throughout the year.
Invest in the right type of sunglasses
It’s very simple to protect our eyes from damage caused by UV rays, so you really have no excuse for neglecting to do so. You can start by investing in some good quality sunglasses, which have several features.
The lenses should be able to block 100% of UV and HEV rays. They should also be big and snug enough to closely cover the entire eye area (wraparound styles are best for this) and should have polarised lenses to reduce glare.
If you are unsure as to whether your sunglasses are offering you the right protection, you can take them to an opticians for an expert evaluation.
Contact lenses can only partly help
Contact lenses often block out some UV ray exposure, though UV-blocking contacts only protect the eye to some extent, in particular the part directly under the lens. UV rays may still cause damage to the conjunctiva and other tissues that are not covered by the lenses. As such, wearing high quality sunglasses will help in protecting the delicate tissues in and around your eyes.
Eye safety is important all-year-round
You might think that you don’t need to wear your sunglasses when you are in the shade or if clouds are present, but don’t be fooled. UV rays can be easily reflected from other surfaces, so although sunglasses will provide some degree of protection, you may still be prone to harmful exposure.
Moreover, if you live in areas which are prone to snow, or even if you like to go skiing a lot (lucky you!), then wearing sunglasses is especially important. Fresh snow can reflect around 80% of UV rays, which is almost double the overall recommended exposure. As such, choosing a good pair of high quality ski goggles is vital when training on those slopes.
Sunglasses aside, you can protect yourself further by wearing a wide-brimmed hat, which can block out up to half of UV rays from your eyes. This is particularly important for elderly people, babies and children, though sun protection is necessary for individuals of all ages.
Finally – and this one is a no-brainer – never look directly into the sun! Doing so can cause solar retinopathy, which is damage to the retina from solar radiation.
Our eyes are one of the most important parts of our body, which is why every one of us should be taking our eye health seriously and following these fool-proof steps throughout the year, not just during the summer months!