Most people know that too much sun is bad for their skin. But, did you know the sun can harm your eyes, too? The same ultraviolet (UV) rays that cause sunburn and skin cancer can damage your eyes in multiple ways, and knowing how that damage occurs can also help you understand why eye protection is so important every time you go outdoors.
A leading provider of comprehensive vision care in Hialeah, Florida, Rodrigo Belalcazar MD, PLLC, helps patients of all ages at Advanced Eye Center take important steps to keep their eyes safe from the sun’s UV rays. In this post, learn why protection is important and what simple steps you can take to prevent sun-related problems.
The sun and your eye health
Every time you’re exposed to sunlight, you’re also exposed to the UV rays emitted by the sun. In your skin, UV radiation can lead to sunburn, wrinkles, and skin cancer, among other issues. In your eyes, UV radiation increases your risks of developing a host of vision disorders and eye problems, including:
- Cataracts, which are a leading cause of blindness worldwide
- Age-related macular degeneration (AMD), which is another common cause of blindness
- Pterygium, which are growths on the sclera (white part of the eye)
- Pinguecula, which is a fatty deposit on the sclera
- Cancers of the eyelid
Photokeratitis is another common problem associated with too much sun exposure. Akin to a sunburn, photokeratitis causes temporary corneal irritation, along with symptoms like eye redness, eye pain, sensations of grittiness, and sensitivity to light.
Eye tissue is especially sensitive to UV radiation. Since UV rays can’t be seen, your eyes can be exposed and you wouldn’t know it until problems developed.
Protecting your eyes and your vision
While it’s true that too much UV radiation exposure can damage your eyes and even cause permanent vision loss, it’s also true that you can decrease those risks by taking a few simple steps to protect your eyes from the sun.
Wear sunglasses — every day
Specifically, wear sunglasses that specify both UVA and UVB protection, and choose sunglasses from a reputable brand and dealer. UV rays can penetrate cloud cover, so be sure to wear them even on cloudy days.
Stick to shade
When you’re outdoors, avoid direct sun when possible and head for shady spots. Avoiding direct sun exposure can help protect your eyelids and the delicate skin around your eyes. Watch out for reflections from sand, water, and snow, each of which can cause photokeratitis.
Wear a hat with a brim
Maybe you don’t think they’re fashionable, but wide-brimmed hats offer important sun protection for your eyes, ears, upper face, and back of your neck. Baseball caps are OK for eye shade, but they can’t protect your ears or neck.
Stay indoors during midday
The sun’s UV rays are strongest from mid-morning to mid-afternoon. Staying inside during the middle part of the day is a great way to avoid too much UV exposure.
Skip tanning beds
Some people think tanning beds are a “safe” way to get a suntan. That’s absolutely not true. Tanning beds can cause skin cancer, including cancer on your eyelids and around your eyes where goggles can’t help. If you want a tanned look, try a spray-on tan instead.
Never look directly at the sun
It might seem like common sense, but it bears repeating anyway: Never, ever look directly at the sun, even during an eclipse. Direct exposure can lead to retina damage and permanent loss of sight.
Have regular eye exams
Like many vision issues, problems associated with UV radiation can be difficult to spot in their early stages. Annual eye exams provide an opportunity for Dr. Belalcazar to screen for problems so they can be treated as early as possible.
Don’t ignore eye problems
You can’t see UV rays, which means there’s no real way to know if your eyes are overexposed. Taking precautions, such as the steps listed above, can help you avoid vision problems and serious eye health issues.
To learn what else you can do to protect your eyes, call 305-707-6011 or book an appointment online with Advanced Eye Center today.