Did you know that the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has named July as Ultraviolet (UV) Safety Awareness Month? Most people use UVA/UVB blocking sunscreen to protect your skin when you go outside, but don’t forget that your eyes need protection as well!
According to the Wilmer Eye Institute and Johns Hopkins Medicine, corneal damage, cataracts and macular degeneration are all possible chronic effects from UV exposure and can ultimately lead to decreased vision. Additionally, UV light is associated with skin cancers including squamous cell carcinomas, basal cell carcinomas, and cutaneous melanoma. Squamous cell carcinoma can occur not just on the skin, but on the conjunctiva and invade the cornea and inside of the eye.
The Hidden Dangers of UV: Keeping Your Eyes Safe report from The Vision Council lists many factors that can affect people’s risk to UV-related conditions. Some of these eye conditions can be reduced or avoided by wearing sunglasses that are approved to provide 100% UVA/UVB protection for your eyes.
Things to remember:
- Cataracts and eye cancers can take years to develop. Each time you are in the sun without eye protection, you increase your risk of serious disease. Babies and children need to wear hats and sunglasses for this very reason. People of all ages should take precautions whenever they are outdoors.
- Growths on the eye, such as pterygium, can show up at any age. Surfers, skiers, fishermen, farmers and others who spend long hours under the midday sun, or near rivers, oceans, and mountains are at a higher risk for this condition.
- Snow blindness, a form of photokeratitis, can quickly develop after exposure to UV reflections off of snow, ice, sand, or water at lakes or beaches.
Here are additional tips to protect your eyes from UV damage, no matter what the season:
- Wear a broad-brimmed hat along with your sunglasses. Children and senior citizens have additional risk factors, so make sure they are covered up!
- Remember that clouds don’t block UV light. The sun’s rays can pass through haze and clouds, so always wear sunscreen, protective clothing, hats and sunglasses even on cloudy days.
- Sunlight is strongest midday to early afternoon, at higher altitudes and when reflected off of water, ice or snow. Plan your activities accordingly!
- Never look directly at the sun. Doing so at any time, including during an eclipse, can damage the eye’s retina and cause a serious injury known as solar retinopathy.
- By embracing these simple suggestions, you and your family can enjoy the sun safely all year long. Remember to schedule annual eye exams for you and your family! We can assess your UV risk, outline treatment plans, and suggest sunwear options from our optical shop!
SOURCE: “The Sun, UV Light, and Your Eyes” American Academy of Ophthalmology, 11 June 2020, https://www.aao.org/eye-health/tips-prevention/sun.
SOURCE: PreventBlindness.org, 25 April 2022, https://preventblindness.org/may-uv-awareness-2022/