See a bright future! Protect your eyes from sun damage6 years ago | Eye Health
By pH health care professionals
Ultraviolet radiation from the sun or tanning bed is notorious for skin damage. You often hear about the sun’s “harmful UV rays” and how sunscreen products can help you avert premature aging or even skin cancer. But did you know ultraviolet radiation can also damage your eyes?
Although the eyelid is designed to protect the eye, its skin is very thin and fragile. Inside the eye, the lens and the cornea, both transparent, filter UV rays, but by doing so for many years, they may become damaged.
In 1998, the Journal of the American Medical Association reported that even low amounts of sunlight can increase the risk of developing eye disorders. Various studies have suggested that spending long hours in the sun without eye protection increases your risk of developing eye diseases, including cataracts (loss of transparency in the lens and clouding vision), vision loss, macular degeneration (retina damage) and eyelid cancer.
If your eyes are exposed to intense UV radiation, you may experience a kind of eye sunburn, a called photokeratitis, which can cause temporary vision loss. This can happen as the sun reflects brightly off of snow or water.
Who is most at risk for eye damage?
The fairer your skin, the lighter your eyes and the older you are, the more cautious you need to be. Light skin and eyes and older age are associated with higher long-term risk of eye damage, especially for people who spend a lot of time outside. Light eyes are at increased risk for skin cancer (melanoma) and certain eye diseases because they contain less of the protective pigment melanin.
How can you be proactive to protect your eyes and vision?
- Wear sunglasses. The American Academy of Ophthalmology recommends wearing quality sunglasses that offer UV protection and wearing a hat or cap with a wide brim whenever you spend time outdoors. Sun damage to eyes can occur anytime during the year. Some contact lenses are now made to block most UV rays but because they don’t cover the whole eye and surrounding areas, they are not sufficient eye protection when used alone.
- Don’t look directly at the sun. Looking at the sun, including during an eclipse, can cause solar retinopathy, which is damage to your retina.
- Know your medication’s side effects. Certain medications, like birth control pills, tetracycline (antibiotic), diuretics (water pills), and mood stabilizers, can increase the body’s sensitivity to sun exposure -- especially the sun’s damaging ultraviolet and “blue light” radiation.
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