Summer is arguably the best time of year to get outside and soak up some sun. Between lounging on the beach, traveling through Europe, or hiking in Acadia National Park, it’s more than just your skin that is exposed to the sun. While you can’t put sunscreen on your eyes, there are a number of things you can do to help protect your eyes this summer.
Wear Sunglasses with UV Protection
Ultraviolet radiation (UVR) may come from the sun, but it can also be reflected off of other surfaces – including water. The best way to protect your eyes from these harmful rays is to wear proper protection. Many sunglasses offer 100 percent protection against UVA and UVB rays, so you should have no problem finding a pair that works. Similar to sunscreen, it’s important to continue wearing your sunglasses even when it’s cloudy.
Wear Goggles When Swimming
There’s nothing quite like swimming in a cool pool on a hot day. While doing so provides a nice relief, it’s important to wear eye protection when swimming in a pool with chlorine. Though the chemical is designed to get rid of harmful bacteria, it has the potential to hurt your eyes. Ocean and lake swimmers should still wear googles as natural bodies of water contain contaminants that can hurt your eyes.
Wear Hats When Doing Yard Work
While sunglasses provide a great amount of protection against UV rays, there are still gaps along the side that can cause UVR exposure. In order to minimize the risk of further exposure, we suggest wearing a hat with a brim at least three-inches wide. This is especially true if you plan to spend time in your garden this summer or relax on the beach.
As always, it’s important to avoid rubbing your eyes as you can easily spread harmful bacteria. Drinking plenty of water (at least eight 8oz glasses per day) will help promote healthy skin and eye health. There are also a number of foods that are rich with nutrients that provide a lot of benefits to your eyes.
Avoid peak hours.
While most people love to soak up the sun’s rays mid-day, this time of day is also when the sun can be the most damaging. If at all possible, avoid sun exposure between 10 AM and 4 PM to protect yourself from the most aggressive UV rays. In the event that you must be out during the middle of the day, though, always wear protective gear, including sunscreen, and seek shade whenever possible.
Never gaze directly at the sun.
Even with protective eyewear, looking at the sun directly can cause significant damage to your eyesight. The most common type of damage caused by direct sun contact is retinopathy, a form of retina damage caused by solar radiation. Avoid gazing directly at the sun at any time, including during an eclipse.
Avoid exposure even when it’s cloudy.
Many people are fooled by cloudy days. Thinking that the clouds provide protection from the sun’s rays is an easy way to damage your eyes without even realizing it. Don’t be fooled. Practice safe eye care and wear protective sunglasses and a hat even when it is cloudy out.
What Damage Can the Sun Do to Eyes?
It doesn’t matter your age or your health status, everyone is at risk for UV damage. If you have light colored eyes, not only may you be more sensitive to the brightness of the sun, you also have an increased risk of certain eye diseases tied to UV damage.
Additionally, if you take certain medications you can also be at increased risk for UV sensitivity. If the drug description states it may make you more sensitive to the sun, you need to be cautious about your eyes as well.
Exposure to the sun’s UV rays has been linked to:
- Cancer in the eye
- Retina damage
- Macular degeneration
- Temporary vision loss
- Tissue growth on the cornea (pterygium)
If you’d like additional information on how you can keep your eyes healthy this summer, consult with your doctor.