While ultraviolet rays can damage your eyes any time of year, the summer months are especially harsh. Read to understand what damage can occur and what you can do to ensure your vision remains strong and healthy:
Why is summer especially hard on the eyes?
No matter where you are on the planet, the summer season in each hemisphere means the sun’s rays are hitting the earth at a steep angle, resulting in longer hours of daylight and higher temperatures, but also an increased risk of damage to your eyes. Also in the summer, the sun is especially strong near the poles and Equator, so if you’re planning to travel further south for a tropical vacation, eye protection is critical.
In addition to sun strength, the length of time spent outdoors generally increases during the summer months. Both water and sand will reflect the sun’s rays, increasing the amount of light hitting your eyes (and skin).
What kind of vision issues can be caused by over-exposure to ultraviolet rays?
Not only are your eyelids and the sensitive skin around your eyes vulnerable to several types of cancers, your vision can also suffer from short-term and long-term damage from exposure to ultraviolet (UV) rays. Some examples include:
- Cataracts: When the lenses of your eye become cloudy and distorted, making it harder to see it clearly. Over-exposure to UV rays can increase a person’s risk of developing cataracts.
- Macular degeneration: When cells in the middle part of your retina die off, causing loss of central vision, essential for activities like reading and driving. Sun damage can Accelerate macular degeneration, so care should be taken to protect the eyes.
- Photokeratitis: Also known as an “eye sunburn,” photokeratitis occurs when the cornea is damaged by overexposure to UV rays. While it usually heals quickly with rest and eye drops, this condition can be particularly painful and cause permanent damage to vision if left untreated.
Who is at risk?
Certain medications that increase sensitivity to light can make your eyes more susceptible to damage from UV rays. Antihistamines, some blood pressure medications and some antidepressants (tricyclics) increase an individual’s likelihood of suffering from both skin and eye damage from UV exposure.
Additionally, people who spend more time outdoors during the summer are at higher risk. Limiting time in the sun during Peak hours (between 11:00 am and 2:00 pm) can help reduce exposure and give your strained eyes a break from the intensity of summer UV rays.
Are sunglasses the best protection?
Sunglasses are not just a fashion accessory. They are essential for every individual to ensure sun damage is minimized. Choose a pair that offers 100% UVA / UVB protection — this means that no matter what kind of lens material the glasses are made of (plastic or glass), they block out 100% of both types of ultraviolet light. Polarized lenses are a great option, especially for individuals that are sensitive to bright light or at higher risk.
What else can you do to minimize ocular damage during the summer months?
Much like protecting your skin, your clothing can help. Wear a hat or visor when outdoors and the sun is at its brightest. Seek shade during the most intense hours of the day and take indoor breaks to assist with eye fatigue. And while it may seem common sense, no one should ever stare directly into the sun, even when wearing eye protection. If you are experiencing eye discomfort you think may be related to sun exposure, such as pain or redness, blurry vision, swelling or color changes, it is important to seek medical treatment or contact your doctor. Specialist care may be necessary.
While now symptoms of sun exposure will resolve in a day or two, CaroMont Health Urgent Care locations offer extended hours for the treatment of minor illness and injuries, such as colds, ear infections and sprained ankles. You can reserve your space online at one of the convenient practice locations: https://www.caromonthealth.org/Patients-Visitors/Schedule-an-Appointment.aspx