Keep eyes safe during fun in the sun

Erick Bothun, M.D.
President, Minnesota Academy of Ophthalmologists

It‘s summertime, which means the days are longer and people are enjoying more time outdoors. But, along with risks to your skin, UV rays can be dangerous for your eyes. Studies show that exposure to bright sunlight may increase the risk of developing age-related macular degeneration, cataracts and growths on the eye, including cancer.

UV radiation, whether from natural sunlight or indoor artificial rays, can damage the eye‘s surface tissues as well as the cornea and lens. Unfortunately, many people are unaware of the dangers UV light can pose to their vision, and this can lead to potentially blinding eye diseases.

The good news is sunglasses, hats, and a little bit of knowledge can go a long way to protect your precious vision. The Minnesota Academy of Ophthalmology reminds the public of a few simple tips:
• Wear sunglasses that offer 100 percent UV protection. Regardless of the cost or color of your shades, make sure they block 100 percent of UV-A rays and UV-B rays and wear them anytime you are outside or driving during the day.
• Choose wrap-around styles: Ideally, your sunglasses should wrap all the way around to your temples, so the sun’s rays can’t enter from the side.
• Wear a hat: In addition to your sunglasses, wear a broad-brimmed hat to protect your eyes.
• Don‘t rely on contact lenses: Even if you wear contact lenses with UV protection, remember your sunglasses.
• Protect your eyes during peak sun times: Sunglasses should be worn whenever outside. It‘s especially important to wear sunglasses in the early afternoon and at higher altitudes, where UV light is more intense.
• Don‘t be fooled by clouds: The sun’s rays can pass through haze and clouds. In fact, sun damage to eyes can occur anytime during the year, not just in the summer.
• Don’t forget the kids: Everyone is at risk, including children. Protect their eyes with hats and sunglasses. In addition, try to keep children out of the sun between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m., when the sun‘s UV rays are the strongest.

Excessive exposure to UV light reflected off sand, water or pavement can damage the eyes’ front surface. In addition to cataracts and age-related macular degeneration, sun exposure can lead to lesions and tumors that may require surgical removal. Pinguecula, tiny yellow bumps on the eye, are common from too much UV exposure. They begin on the white part of the eye and may eventually disrupt your vision.

Damage to the eyes from UV light is not limited to the outdoors; it is also a concern with indoor tanning beds. Tanning beds can produce UV levels up to 100 times what you would get from the sun, which can cause very serious damage to the external and internal structures of the eye and eyelids.

For more information on keeping eyes healthy or to find an ophthalmologist www.geteyesmart.org.

— About the Minnesota Academy of Ophthalmology is the state association of eye physicians and surgeons.
 

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