July is UV Safety Month, and the American Academy of Ophthalmology – the Eye M.D. Association – reminds Americans of the importance of protecting their eyes from the sun’s harmful rays by wearing sunglasses and wide-brimmed hats. One of the greatest threats to your eyes is invisible. The scientific evidence is piling up: long-term exposure to invisible ultraviolet radiation can damage our eyes and lead to vision loss. Everyone – including children – is at risk.
Like your skin, your eyes never recover from UV exposure. Studies show that exposure to bright sunlight may increase the risk of developing cataracts and age-related macular degeneration, both leading causes of vision loss among older adults. UV exposure, wind and dust can also cause pterygia, benign growths on the eye’s surface. The more exposure to bright light, the greater the chance of developing these eye conditions.
In addition to the damage caused by a lifetime of exposure to bright sun, you need to protect your eyes from acute damage caused by outings on very bright days. Excessive exposure to ultraviolet light reflected off sand, snow, water or pavement can damage the cornea, the eye’s surface. “Sun damage to eyes can occur anytime during the year, not just in the summertime,” said Paul Sternberg Jr., MD, chairman of ophthalmology at Vanderbilt University. “Although July is designated as UV Safety Month, you should protect your eyes from damage all year long.” Similar to a sunburn on your skin, corneal ultraviolet injuries are painful, but usually heal quickly.
Take these steps to protect your eyes from the sun:
Select sunglasses that block ultraviolet rays. Don’t be deceived by color or cost. The ability to block UV light is not dependent on the darkness of the lens or the price tag.
Ideally, your sunglasses should wrap all the way around to your temples, so the sun’s rays can’t enter from the side.
In addition to your sunglasses, wear a broad-rimmed hat to protect your eyes. Don’t be fooled by a cloudy day. The sun’s rays can pass through the haze and thin clouds.
Even if you wear contacts with UV protection, remember your sunglasses.
Sunglasses should be worn whenever outside, and it’s especially important to wear sunglasses in the early afternoon and in higher altitudes, where UV light is more intense.
From American Academy of Ophthalmology