You head outdoors on a sunny day, ensuring that you’re either well covered or that you have sunscreen on so that your skin is well protected. Your eyes can benefit from this same vigilance as the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays can cause damage in these sensitive areas, too.
As our days get longer and the temps warm up here in Pennsylvania, the ophthalmologist team at Suburban Eye Associates wants to use this month’s blog post to emphasize the importance of sun protection for your eyes.
In the following, we review the potential dangers of exposing your eyes to UV light and how you can best protect them.
The dangers of UV light
We routinely use the term UV rays when it comes to the sun, but it’s important to understand that these rays are a form of radiation. If you’ve ever had a bad sunburn, you understand this fact all too well.
While your skin is designed, to a certain extent, to endure UV rays thanks to melanin, your eyes don’t have the same built-in protection.
It’s also important to understand that UV light can strike from above, as well as from below when it’s reflected off of water or snow.
To give you an idea about what can happen when you routinely head outdoors without eye protection, prolonged exposure to UV light can raise your risks for:
- Eye cancer
- Eye growths, such as pterygium
- Photokeratitis, which is also known as snow blindness
- Macular degeneration
- Corneal damage
If you stare directly at the sun without protection, you can also permanently damage your retina, which you may recall from the many warnings that are issued any time there’s a solar eclipse.
Protection is key
To ensure your eyes are well protected against UV light, there are a few simple steps you should take.
First and foremost, arm yourself with a good pair of sunglasses that block 99%-100% of both UVA and UVB rays. To get this type of protection, look for lenses that are UV 400 rated. This protection is different from polarized lenses, which excel in minimizing the glare, but fall short on UV protection. Be sure you know the facts about your sunglass lenses before you buy.
You can also wear a hat that shades your eyes adequately, especially during the peak sun hours between 10am and 4pm. Or, stay indoors or in the shade during this time.
We want to also emphasize that eye protection is critical for toddlers and kids, too, so be sure that your littlest ones are also included in your efforts.
We know that you’re anxious to say goodbye to winter and hello to warm sunshine, and we encourage you to head outdoors — as long as your eyes are well protected.
If you want to learn more about the effects of UV light on your eyes or you have questions about choosing the right protection, contact one of our locations in Philadelphia, Jenkintown, or Huntingdon Valley.