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Protecting Your Perfect Peepers from Damage - Sun and Other Light

Summer 2019 is fast approaching! We all know the importance of protecting our skin from the effects of sunlight. But, have you thought about what the sun’s rays are doing to your most important facial feature - your eyes?!

Hopefully, you have already gotten into the habit of lathering on the SPF for your days spent poolside. Did you know that the effects of ultraviolet light can be just as harmful for your eyes. Lucky for you, we’ve got all the details you need on how to keep your eyes in great health.

What are the effects of sun damage?

First, we will cover the short-term effects. Photokeratitis is a condition that is similar to a sunburn on the cornea and occurs as a result of direct sunlight exposure for long periods of time. It often feels like there is sand or grit in your eye, which can be very painful. It typically improves over time with the use of lubrication, like eye drops.

Long term effects of sun damage can include cataracts, and macular degeneration. Ptyergia and pingueculae are growths on the top of the eye that grow into the cornea and occur mostly in people who work outdoors or live in Southern states.

But I have darker skin, so I’m safe, right?

Maybe you’ve heard the myth that those with darker skin don’t have to worry as much about eye damage due to sun exposure. Let us clear this up a bit. EVERYONE is affected by sun exposure - EVERYONE.

However, those with lighter eyes are more susceptible to damage. Here’s why.

The color of your iris is determined by the pigments in your eyes. The more pigment in your iris, the darker your eyes are, and the more pigment in your iris, the more natural protection you have from ultraviolet light. But, even with the darkest brown eyes, you are not immune!

What if I maybe, sorta, kinda, possibly am worried that I could already have some sun damage?

If you have any suspicion that your eyes may be experiencing the effects of sun damage, you should make an appointment with your ophthalmologist ASAP!

This is especially true if you wear contact lenses. If you are experiencing any redness or irritation, make sure to have your eyes examined to ensure your safety as infections and corneal ulcers, which if left untreated, could cause blindness.

How do I fix it?

Well, the simple answer is that you don’t. When it comes to sun damage, what’s been done is done. However, with treatment from an ophthalmologist, you can help slow the progression of issues and move forward with the knowledge and protection you need to keep things from getting drastically worse.

As always, be honest with your medical professionals about how you’re feeling and what your past habits may have been - even if you’re not particularly proud of them!

How to Protect Your Eyes

Protect your Eyes with Big, Floppy Hats!

Big, Floppy Hats!

Okay, so they don’t have to be big or floppy… But those sure are cute! Hats can shade your eyes from the sun and reduce not only damage, but summer eye strain as well.

Keep in mind that hats with brims don’t offer protection from UV rays that are reflected from surfaces like pavement, sand, and water.

Protect your Eyes with Stylin' Shades!

Stylin’ Shades!

When choosing a pair of sunglasses, what you’re looking for is a pair that blocks 98-99% of both UVA and UVB rays.

They don’t have to be polarized - but polarized lenses tend to also come with the complete UV protection you need. And the polarization neutralizes the glare we experience in the early morning and at dusk.

Look for sunglasses with full coverage - ideally wrap-around frames that block the sun’s harmful rays from creeping in from the side.

Protect your Eyes with UV-Blocking Contact Lenses!

UV-Blocking Contact Lenses

Important to note - NOT ALL contact lenses block UV light. Typical contact lenses allow 90% of UVA and 70% of UVB radiation to pass through to the eyes. Do not consider your typical contact lenses to be a protective measure.

Those that do come in two classes. Class 1 UV blockers provide the greatest protection. To date, the most protective contact lenses block at least 90% of the UVA and 99% of the UVB rays that reach the lens itself.

Overall, your best bet is to wear your contact lenses in conjunction with high quality sunglasses.

Protect your Eyes by using a combination of sun-protecting measures.

Look Down - Always Look Down!

Just kidding! In fact, reflected UV rays can be even more dangerous than direct sunlight.

We are naturally more likely to look down than up and some of the surfaces you’d least expect can bounce those rays right back into your eyes.

Grass, soil, and water reflect less than 10% of UV radiation. However, fresh snow - as much as 80%. UV rays are all around! You need serious protective measures.

They say the eyes are the windows to the soul. Protect yours just well as you would your skin this summer (maybe even better)! We suggest using a combination of methods for the best possible protection.

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