Most of us are conscientious about protecting our skin from the sun's harmful ultraviolet (UV) radiation. We apply sunscreen before heading outdoors and make sure to cover up with clothing and a hat. But what about our eyes? UV radiation can be just as damaging to our eyes as to our skin, yet many ignore precautions to protect them. Read on for more information on keeping your eyes safe from UV radiation.
What are UV rays?
UV rays are a form of non-ionizing radiation. These rays are naturally emitted by the sun and made from other man-made sources. While we cannot see UV rays, we are exposed to low levels of these rays every day. Some exposure to UV radiation is good for us since it's how we get the majority of our vitamin D. Too much UV radiation, however, can cause problems. Short-term overexposure can cause sunburns while long-term overexposure can cause skin cancer.
The dangers of UV radiation
The short and long-term damage caused by UV radiation overexposure can carry over to your eyes. Some harmful effects include worsening vision and deterioration of your overall eye health. Some eye conditions or diseases that can be caused or made worse by UV radiation include:
- Cataracts - A cataract is a cloudy area in the lens of your eye. Most cataracts develop with age, but they can also occur due to other reasons, such as eye injury or surgery.
- Macular Degeneration – Macular Degeneration is an eye disease that can blur your central vision. Macular Degeneration happens when your macula, the part of the eye responsible for straight-ahead vision, is damaged.
- Photokeratitis – Photokeratitis is a temporary eye condition caused by overexposure to UV rays. Photokeratitis is comparable to a sunburn on the areas of your eyes.
- Skin Cancer – Damage in or around your eyelids can occur when overexposed to UV rays.
Factors that influence UV exposure
To avoid UV radiation overexposure, it’s essential to be aware of the risk factors involved. Some risk factors include:
- Geographic location – UV rays get stronger the closer you are to the equator.
- Altitude – More UV rays reach the ground at higher elevations
- Time of day – UV rays are the strongest between 10 am–4 pm.
- Season – UV rays are strongest in the spring and summer since the sun is at its highest angle and intensity.
- Reflection – UV rays can bounce off many surfaces, like water, snow, sand, and pavement. This concentration of light causes an increase in UV exposure.
- Cloud coverage – While clouds can provide some coverage, UV rays can still get through the ground.
- Medications – Certain medications like diuretics, tranquilizers, or birth control pills will make you more sensitive to UV radiation.
How to protect your eyes from the sun
The best way to protect your eyes from UV rays is to wear eye protection. Sunglasses are available in a variety of fashionable shapes and styles. When choosing the right pair of sunglasses to protect your eyes, some options are better than others. Here are a few things to keep in mind when searching for your next pair of sunglasses.
- UV Rating – Look for a tag or sticker that says 100% UV protection (or UV absorption up to 40nm). Higher UV protection ratings provide the best amount of UV protection.
- Darker doesn’t mean better – It may seem intuitive that darker sunglasses provide more protection, but this is not the case. Only sunglasses with 100% UV protection provide the maximum amount of protection. This concept also applies to frames with different colored lenses.
- Size – More coverage equals more protection. Consider using oversized or wrap-around style frames when selecting for UV protection.
- Sunglass limitations – Sunglasses will not protect your eyes in extreme conditions, including arc welding, using a tanning bed, or staring directly at the sun. All of these activities require specialized eye protection.
It’s a good idea to wear a broad-brimmed hat to provide enhanced eye protection. The shade will provide extra coverage in addition to your sunglasses when you’re outside. Regular eye exams can also track any eye damage from UV radiation overexposure. Our doctors can evaluate your eyes and diagnose any issues with a comprehensive eye exam.
Visit our optical
The sun is a necessary part of life, but it’s also important to be safe when enjoying its benefits. Make sure you protect your eyes from UV radiation by wearing sunglasses that block 100% of UV rays. Our sunglass collection features many different styles that will keep your eyes safe while you enjoy the sun. Schedule your appointment today to come in and try on some sunglasses! We know you’ll find the perfect pair for your needs.