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Guard Your Eyes: Sun Damage Isn't Just for Skin


Guard Your Eyes: Sun Damage Isn’t Just for Skin

Think the sun only affects your skin? Think again. Your eyes are also at risk for damage from potentially harmful ultraviolet rays (UV). UV radiation from the sun comes in three forms: A, B and C. UVC rays are absorbed by the ozone and do not pose a threat. UVA, or long wave rays, typically penetrate the thickest part of your skin, while UVB, or short wave rays, typically attack the more superficial layers of skin, which can cause sunburns.

While applying sunscreen regularly is a great way to protect your body from these harmful UV rays, it does nothing to protect your eyes. That’s right—your eyes have the potential to become sunburned. Officially known as photokeratitis, eye sunburn manifests with symptoms such asredness, a gritty feeling in your eyes, extreme sensitivity to light and excessive tearing. These symptoms are often temporary and don’t usually cause permanent damage.

In addition to photokeratitis, extended exposure to sunlight can also cause cataracts, which affects your eyes’ ability to focus, or macular degeneration, a major contributor to vision loss, later in life. Currently, it’s not clear how much exposure to sun radiation is necessary to cause damage to your vision.

Other risks of UV radiation include eyelid and eye cancers. Eyelid cancer, including basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma and melanoma, accounts for 5­–10 percent of all skin cancers and mostly occurs in the lower eyelid. The most common type of eye cancer in adults, intraocular melanoma, starts in the uveal tract, the middle layer of the eye containing the iris and choroid. Look for a change in the shape of the pupil or blurred vision as symptoms of intraocular melanoma.

Don’t be alarmed: there are plenty of ways to protect your eyes when the sun is shining. Read on for tips to keep your vision in tiptop shape this summer and always consult with your optometrist if you experience any changes in your vision.

  1. Don’t look directly at the sun: As beautiful as the sun is shining bright on a summer day, it’s best to appreciate the sight from a distance. Looking directly at the sun can cause solar retinopathy, or damage to the eye's retina caused by solar radiation.
  1. Choose the right sunglasses: Wearing sunglasses is the most obvious and one of the best ways to keep your eyes protected from harmful UV rays. The right sunglasses should block out 99–100 percent of both UVA and UVB radiation and screen out 75–90 percent of visible light. Make sure to keep your shades free from scratches and imperfections and consider wraparound sunglasses if you’re spending the majority of your day under the sun.
  1. Pack a hat: Choose a wide-brimmed hat to shield your eyes from the sun while working in your garden, lying out on the beach or during any other long periods of time spent in the sun.
Categories: Health