The Sun And Your Eyes: Know The Risks Of UV Ray Exposure & How To Avoid It
Now that summer is here in the United States, you may have stocked up on sunscreen to protect your skin from the sun's harsh UV rays this sunny season. Like most people today, you likely take steps to protect your skin from the sun to prevent
skin cancer and premature aging. However, you may not realize that the sun's UV rays can also harm your eyes, which is why it is very important to shield your family's eyes from these rays.
Read on to learn more about how the sun's UV rays can affect your eye health.
How the Sun's UV Rays Can Damage Your Eyes
Just as mild to moderate exposure of your skin to the sun can be beneficial to your health, exposing your eyes to some sunlight, especially in the morning, can help you sleep more soundly at night by promoting a healthy circadian rhythm. However, skipping eye protection when outdoors too frequently, especially on bright and sunny days, can contribute to the development of the following eye diseases and disorders:
Cataracts. The American Academy of Ophthalmology estimates that about half of all Americans develop at least one cataract by the age of 75. Cataracts occur when the clear lenses of the eyes begin to cloud and impair vision. While there are multiple risk factors for cataract development, too much exposure of the eye lens to the sun's UV rays is one risk factor that you can take steps to avoid. The sun's UV rays contribute to cataract development by damaging the proteins in the eye lens.
Glaucoma. Over 2.7 million Americans already have this eye disease, which occurs when too much fluid builds up in the eye and increases intraocular pressure. This pressure can damage the optic nerve of the eye, which can ultimately lead to blindness in some sufferers.
Many people develop a condition called eye exfoliation syndrome prior to developing glaucoma, and a person with exfoliation syndrome is six times more likely to develop glaucoma in their lifetime than someone without it. Studies have found that people who live closer to the equator and spend more time outdoors, which both lead to increased exposure to the sun's UV rays, are more prone to the development of exfoliation syndrome.
Cancer. While it may not surprise you that exposing your thin, fragile eyelid skin to too much of the sun's UV rays can lead to eyelid skin cancer, you may not realize that there are two types of cancers that can occur in your eyes themselves. Intraocular melanoma can occur in the middle area of the eye, called the uveal tract. Conjuctival cancer can also develop in the area of the eye called the conjuntiva, which lies near the eye's surface.
How to Protect Your Eyes from Sun Damage
Now that you know just how too much exposure can lead to several eye diseases, you likely wonder if you are doing enough to protect your eyes from the sun's harsh UV rays. If you already wear sunglasses on sunny days, then you are off to a great start. However, realize that there are low-quality sunglasses on the market that don't offer the UV protection that the American Optometric Association recommends. To protect your eye health, the AOA recommends choosing sunglasses that block at least 99 percent of both UVA and UVB rays.
If you wear prescription eyeglasses daily, then ask your eye doctor for a lens coating that blocks 99–100 percent of the sun’s UVA and UVB rays. Not all eyeglasses automatically come with this coating, so if you are not sure if you currently have one on your eyeglasses, be sure to have one added or purchase a new pair from Absolute Vision Care to be sure your eyes are protected.
Also, realize that damaging solar radiation can still come into contact with your eyes when you’re wearing traditional sunglasses. To protect your eyes from this radiation, consider wearing a pair of wraparound sunglasses, or, if you wear contact lenses, ask your eye doctor for UV-blocking contact lenses.