With winter on its way, not many people think about the damage the sun outside does to their eyes. Shortened days and cold weather encourage people to stay indoors during the winter months.
First we'll explain what kinds of medical conditions are caused by excessive sun exposure. Then we'll describe tips you can use to keep your eyes protected from sun damage.
Is Anyone Safe from Sun Damage?
Everyone is affected by UV rays. Unlike other health problems that affect only people of certain races or genders, sun damage can affect anyone. Everyone, including children, adults, and the elderly should take steps to prevent the sun from wreaking havoc on their vision.
However, people with light-coloured eyes have a greater risk of sun damage. That means people who have light blue, grey, or green eyes can experience more damage in shorter period of time. The light pigment leaves the iris more susceptible to light damage. Individuals with darker eyes have more natural pigment to protect their irises from UV rays.
That isn't to say that people with dark-coloured eyes should neglect proper UV protection. But people with light eyes should take greater care to avoid irreversible eye damage.
What Problems Can Sun Damage Cause?
In the short term, exposure to the sun can cause sunburn on the eye, called photokeratitis. Snow blindness is a form of photokeratitis. It is caused specifically by reflections from ice and snow. If you spend an extra long day out on the slopes in the blinding snow, you may experience the following symptoms:
Sensitivity to bright light
Temporary vision loss
Usually symptoms go away on their own after a little rest. You should avoid exposure to the sun while you recover. If you wear contact lenses, you should remove them when symptoms start.
Harmful UV rays can also cause long-term damage. If you continually go outside without using UV protection, you may develop more serious conditions.
Cataract: The eye's lens clouds over, leading to blurry vision.
Pterygium: A growth that develops in the corner of the eye. It is usually non-cancerous, but it can grow to cover the cornea and block vision. Pterygium requires surgery to be removed.
Macular degeneration: If you retain consistent damage to your retina over time, you can damage the macula, or sharp vision center of the retina. While macular degeneration is usually associated with people over the age of 60, excessive UV exposure is a potential cause.
Skin cancer: The skin around your eyelids is very sensitive. With excessive UV exposure, the eyelids can develop cancerous lesions that disfigure the face. Lesions can develop on the eyelids, under the eyebrows, in corners of the eye, and other places on the face.
How Should You Protect Your Eyes from Sun Damage? Sun damage is easy to prevent. Simply use common sense and wear sunglasses and a hat with a brim when you go outside.
Wear Sunglasses Choose sunglasses that protect against UVA and UVB rays. If you're not sure, check the label when you're in the store. If the label doesn't say it blocks 99% or 100% UVA and UVB light, don't buy the sunglasses. Cheaper quality sunglasses use tinted glass that reduces glare but doesn't protect against UV light.
If you can find them, it helps to choose polarized sunglasses. Polarized sunglasses have vertical lines printed on the surface of the glass that neutralize glare. These lines are invisible to the naked eye, but they make a huge difference during dawn and dusk, when the glare of the sun shines directly into your eyes. Polarized sunglasses also protect against UVA and UVB rays.
Your sunglasses should completely cover your eyes. If they let sunlight directly into your field of vision, they don't protect you enough. Choose a pair of wraparound sunglasses that fit closely to your face for greater protection. Or choose sunglasses with large lenses that shield your eyes at every angle.
If you wear contact lenses, you should still use sunglasses when you go outside. Most contacts don't protect your eyes from UV rays, so you shouldn't rely on them. Ask your optometrist if your contact lenses have UVA and UVB protection.
Wear a Hat Hats with brims create personal shade for you. You can prevent up to half of the sun's rays from reaching your face. A brim of three inches or more is more effective in blocking UV light. You can even choose a hat that reflects your style: a floppy hat, a baseball cap, and a tinted visor are all good stylish choices.
Don't forget to use proper UV protection even on cloudy and overcast days. The sun's rays still make it through clouds and gloom. Protect your eyes from temporary and permanent damage by following our tips. For more eye care tips and tricks, call or contact The Eyewear Place today.