UV Rays and Your Eyes

July is National UV Safety Month! Summer is an exciting time full of fun activities, but they can be less enjoyable for your eyes if you don’t have the proper protection.

A lot of us do more outdoor activities in the summer than in other seasons, and that exposes our eyes to more harmful UV rays from the sun. That’s why it’s so important that we have good, UV-blocking sunglasses to protect our eyes.

How Do UV Rays Harm Our Eyes?

You don’t have to stare directly into the sun for it to affect your eyes. You can actually get sunburns on them in addition to our skin just by being outside for an extended period of time. These sunburns are called photokeratitis. Symptoms include a gritty sensation when blinking, redness, tearing, blurred vision, and light sensitivity. The same thing can happen on ski slopes due to the light reflecting off of snow. There, it’s called “snow blindness,” but it’s pretty common on bright, sandy beaches.

The effects of UV exposure build up over time. The more sun exposure our eyes get in our lifetimes, the more it increases our risk of sight-threatening conditions like cataracts and macular degeneration. It also makes us more vulnerable to conditions like pterygium, which is an overgrowth of the clear tissue of the whites of the eyes towards the iris, and pinguecula, which are yellow or white bumps that form in the whites of the eyes.

Sunglasses Protect Our Eyes From UV Rays

Our first priority when selecting a pair of sunglasses should be UV protection. How can we be sure whether the lenses block UV rays? Check the label. It should say something along the lines of “blocks at least 99% of UVA and UVB rays.” The bigger the lenses, the better the coverage, too. Polarized lenses offer especially good protection because they block sunlight reflected off the surfaces around us such as the surface of water and cars around us in traffic.

Other Ways to Minimize UV Exposure

Besides wearing sunglasses, there are a few other things we can do to protect our eyes and skin from the sun:

  • Avoid being in the sun during the brightest hours (11am to 3pm in the afternoon).
  • Apply sunscreen regularly (preferably a dermatologist-approved sunscreen).
  • Wear wide-brimmed hats to shield your eyes and head.

Our Opticals Work Hand-in-Hand With Your Doctor

If you need help finding the best sunglasses for your summer plans, we’re here to help! Each of our offices has an in-house optical where we can assess your unique needs and make direct recommendations based on your doctor’s observations. Come in and check out the wide selection of functional and fashionable eyewear for all ages! Request an appointment at our offices by clicking here and we’ll see you soon!