As the temperature rises, summertime fun sounds so appealing. And with that extended sunshine comes health considerations. You know about protecting your skin from ultraviolet radiation damage. But have you thought about how you can protect your eyes from the sun? Show them a little love this summer by practicing eye safety.
Parents can really help if they think about “double” protection in the sun. The American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO) says 74 percent of parents make sure their kids wear sunscreen, but only 32 percent ensure kids wear UV-protected sunglasses. When you’re selecting a pair of sunglasses for you or your kids, remember:
- Oversize and wraparound sunglasses keep even more UV rays from entering on the side
- Darker lenses don’t mean better protection
- Colored lenses may help with contrast but have nothing to do with sun protection
- Taking antibiotics, having light-colored eyes or cataracts also increases photosensitivity
1. Give Your Contact Lenses a Break
“Never wear your contact lenses while swimming, showering, or sleeping. Doing so can dramatically increase your risk of eye infections, which can cause permanent vision loss. If you need help seeing underwater, ask your eye care professional about prescription swimming goggles,” Dr. Rao said.
The risk of eye infection is real from bacteria in swimming pools, lakes, the ocean and yes, even hot tubs, says the Food and Drug Administration.
“Infections from poor contact lens hygiene can and do cause blindness, and they can develop quickly,” Dr. Rao said. “If you have eye pain, redness, decreased vision, and/or light sensitivity, you should see an eye doctor right away.”
2. Wear Eye Protection When You Work
“For eye safety, use eye protection whenever you’re working with any machinery, power tools, gardening equipment or any tools in general,” Dr. Rao said. “Objects unexpectedly poke or hit eyes all the time, and that can cause severe eye injuries and vision loss. If you have eye pain or decreased vision after something hits your eye, you should see an ophthalmologist immediately.”
3. Wear Sunglasses Outside
That may sound simple, but the truth is, it’s easy to run out the door and say, “Oh, well. It won’t hurt me just this once to go without my sunglasses.” It’s also important to remember when shopping for eyewear that you need to wear ones that do the job; always buy sunglasses labeled “UV400” or “100 percent UV protection.”
“Polarized sunglasses are even better than regular UV protection sunglasses. They are especially good at reducing transmitted light, especially from reflective surfaces such as water or snow,” Dr. Rao noted.
Polarization doesn’t affect UV protection, however. “If you don’t have polarized sunglasses, do wear sunglasses with UV protection,” he says. “UV protection sunglasses help to decrease the risk of eyelid, eye surface, and intraocular cancers. They also help reduce the risk of benign growths on the eye surface such as pterygium.”
A pterygium is a benign, non-cancerous growth on the eye surface which starts from the conjunctiva (the clear mucus membrane which covers the white part of your eye) and can grow onto the cornea, where it can sometimes cause irritation and blurred vision. Wearing sunglasses can help decrease the chance of developing a pterygium.
Summer doesn’t have to mean eye problems. Use Dr. Rao’s easy-to-follow advice, and your eyes will thank you for making sure they’re safe in the sun.