When we go out on a sunny day , we are always concerned about our skin getting sunburnt. You always see the moms applying sunscreen on their children’s skin. We often forget about how our eyes can be damaged by the sun too.
Many surfaces like water, sand and even buildings reflects the UVA and UVB rays which increases exposure and doubles the UV risk to your eyes.
Sun damage to the eyes may pose a serious risk in the long run- from blurred vision, red irritated eyes to diseases like cataracts and macular degeneration. Pterygiums are very common in people who spend a lot of time outside- these are membranes growing over the eyes that often needs to be surgically removed. It is important to note that it is not only the eyes but also the skin around the eyes that needs protection- there are various types of cancerous melanomas that can develop in and around the eyes.
So we all know the best protection is wearing sunglasses and a wide-brimmed hat- but remember that your stylish pair of sunnies may not be protecting your eyes as well as you think. Here’s how to tell if you’r e wearing the right kind:
Read and know the labels:
All sunglasses should have labels that indicate their protection level. You should always look for sunglasses with 100% UVA and UVB protection or UV 400, says Zelda van Coller, an optometrist at Dynamic Vision Brackenhurst. Avoid labels saying UV 100 without a percentage at the end- or other denominations.
The sun emits three kinds of UV waves: UVA, UVB and UVC. All of these waves have a length of 400 nanometers or smaller, but UVC is absorbed by the earth’s atmosphere. So UVA and UVB are what you need to protect yourself from ( both skin and eyes!) A pair of sunglasses labeled UV 400 will absorb the harmful wavelengths the same as the ones saying 100% UVA and UVB.
Don’t trust just any label:
Be aware that not all sunglass stickers or labels are trustworthy. Sunglasses are regulated as medical devices by the FDA (intended to prevent the sun’s damaging effect’s on the eyes)
There are unfortunately many sunglasses where the information on the sticker is not accurate -especially for the cheaper brands.
Get your sunnies from a trusted source:
Instead of simply ordering or buying sunglasses from any retailer, do some research first or ask your Optometrist what brands they recommend for optimal protection. You don’t have to buy the most expensive brands to get good quality, but you don’t want to go cheap , either.
Ask your optometrist about sport specific eyewear- there are many options available to improve your vision and performance with the type of sport and conditions- for example seeing the golf ball on the greens, the yellow ball on the tennis court etc.
Darker lenses aren’t always better:
People that are very light sensitive often believe that the darker the colour of the lenses, the better the protection. This is not always true because darker lenses without adequate UV protection can actually be worse than no sunglasses at all. The reason for this is that very dark lenses cause the pupil to dilate too much and actually increases the retinal (eye) exposure to UV , if unfiltered- explains van Coller.
Think big sizes and wraparounds:
The stylish oversized sunglass frames are a good choice for providing extra UV protection from the periphery. Wraparound frames also help with extra protection from the sides.
Think Polarized for extra glare protection:
Polarised lenses is a very good choice for reducing glare from sunlight reflecting off shiny surfaces. If you are spending a lot of time near water like rivers or the ocean- polarized remains the best choice. You will pay slightly more but it is well worth it.
Children are at risk:
Sun damage is proportional to the amount of time we spend in the sun throughout our lives. Children spend a lot of time outdoors an the cumulative dose of sun exposure is therefore maximum between birth and 16 years of age. That means they are at most risk.
Don’t let your guard down on cloudy , humid days- the clouds don’t block the harmful rays .
Contact lens wearers:
Although many of the contact lenses on the market now have UV protection in the material of the lens- this is not enough. The contact lens only covers the cornea and pupil and the white parts of the eye as well as the eye lids need protection too. Contact lense wearers should always wear sunglasses to provide total UV protection .
Another tip for summer times next to the pool or on the beach- wear goggles while swimming to avoid irritation and dryness caused by the chlorine or salt. Artificial tear drops like Optive Fusion is a safe eye drop to use if your have dry eyes after swimming ( this is safe for kids too )
So before going outside- remember to grab your sunglasses, they are just as important as sunscreen and a hat! Be sun smart this summer and protect your eyes- you only have one pair!
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