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
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.
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.
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.
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.