We all use sunscreen to protect our skin, but don't forget to protect your eyes as well. Summertime means more time spent outdoors, and studies show that exposure to bright sunlight may increase the risk of developing cataracts and growths on the eye, including cancer. The same risk applies when using tanning beds, so be sure to protect your eyes from indoor UV light as well. Sunlight reflected off sand and water can cause photokeratitis, the condition responsible for snow blindness, so beach- and pool-goers take note.
"UV radiation, whether from natural sunlight or indoor artificial rays, can damage the eye's surface tissues as well as the cornea and lens," said Michael Kutryb, MD, an ophthalmologist in Edgewater, Fla., and clinical correspondent for the American Academy of Ophthalmology. "Unfortunately, many people are unaware of the dangers UV light can pose. By wearing UV-blocking sunglasses, you can enjoy the summer safely while lowering your risk for potentially blinding eye diseases and tumors." It is important to start wearing proper eye protection at an early age to protect your eyes from years of ultraviolet exposure.
According to a national Sun Safety Survey conducted by the American Academy of Ophthalmology, only about half of people who wear sunglasses say they check the UV rating before buying.The good news is that you can easily protect yourself. In order to be eye smart in the sun, the American Academy of Ophthalmology recommends the following:
Wear sunglasses labeled "100% UV protection": Use only glasses that block both UV-A and UV-B rays and that are labeled either UV400 or 100% UV protection.
- Choose wraparound styles so that the sun's rays can't enter from the side.
- If you wear UV-blocking contact lenses, you'll still need sunglasses.
Wear a hat along with your sunglasses; broad-brimmed hats are best.
Remember the kids: It's best to keep children out of direct sunlight during the middle of the day. Make sure they wear sunglasses and hats whenever they are in the sun.
Know that clouds don't block UV light: The sun's rays can pass through haze and clouds. Sun damage to the eyes can occur any time of year, not just in summer.
Be extra careful in UV-intense conditions: Sunlight is strongest mid-day to early afternoon, at higher altitudes, and when reflected off of water, ice or snow.
By embracing these simple tips you and your family can enjoy the summer sun safely while protecting your vision.