The very star that illuminates your world can damage the eyes that let you see it. Although the sun provides light and warmth, it also has a negative effect on your eyes. Being aware of the damaging effects of the sun can help motivate you to protect your eyes for many years of beautiful vision.
Your Eyes and the Sun: The sun can wreak havoc on your eyes in a number of ways. Overexposure can lead to photokeratitis (sunburn to the cornea), pterygium (tissue growth on the whites of eyes that can block vision), cataracts and macular degeneration. If you spend a lot of time in the sun without sunglasses, you may notice symptoms of photokeratitis. Symptoms may be painful and can include red eyes, extreme sensitivity to light and excessive tearing. Fortunately, this is usually temporary.
While photokeratitis is usually temporary, long-term exposure to sunlight can lead to more serious conditions. Damage to the retina (the part of the eye used for seeing) is a possible effect and can also occur as a result of chronic exposure to shorter wavelength visible light such as blue light. Although blue light has longer wavelengths and lower energy than UV rays, it can reach far into the eye and damage the retina.
People who spend a considerable amount of time in the sun are at a greater risk for sun damage. UV levels increase the closer to the equator you are and the higher the altitude. They are greatest when the sun is high in the sky, usually between 10 am and 2 pm. Additionally, UV light can be especially bright when reflected off surfaces such as sand and snow. Have you ever found it hard to see after walking inside on a sunny, snow covered day? That’s because UV light nearly doubles when reflected off snow. Those that take certain medications such as tetracycline, sulfa drugs, birth control pills, diuretics and tranquilizers can increase the body’s sensitivity to UV radiation. Don’t let a cloudy day fool you either; UV is invisible radiation and can penetrate through the clouds.
It’s not just adults that need eye protection from the sun. Some experts say that because children spend significantly more time outdoors than most adults, 25 percent of lifetime exposure to UV radiation is sustained during childhood. Children are also more susceptible to retinal damage, because the lens in their eye is clearer than an adult lens, allowing more UV light to pass through into the eye.
Despite its harmful effects, most people love to enjoy time in the sun. Protect your eyes with a pair of sunglasses that block 100 percent of UV rays and that absorb most blue light. You should also look for a pair with large lenses or a close-fitting wraparound style to help protect the delicate skin around your eyes. The color of the lenses is unrelated to how much protection the sunglasses offer. However, for blocking blue light, bronze, copper or reddish-brown are best. You can give your eyes even more protection on a sunny day by wearing a wide brimmed hat, which can reduce your eye’s exposure to UV and blue light by up to 50 percent. Don’t forget the kids and their extra sensitive eyes! Special durable frames are available to fit their carefree lifestyle.
Check out our Optical Boutique for a great selection of protective lenses for all ages!