With summer approaching quickly, we all need to think about protecting our eyes from the sun and its harmful rays. The sun emits several types of damaging light: Ultraviolet (UV) and High Energy Visible (HEV) light. UVA and UVB rays can not only harm our skin, but can be detrimental to the health of our eyes. HEV or blue light can be helpful in small amounts but the exposure from the sun combined with too much exposure from electronic devices can be damaging to our eyes.
In the short term, too much UV exposure can cause photokeratitis or a sunburn of the eye. Your eyes will become red, feel gritty and sore, and produce excessive tearing. In the long term, UV exposure can cause cataracts and retinal damage. HEV light has been shown to be a factor in age-related macular degeneration. Skin cancer around the eyes can also be linked to too much sun exposure.
It’s important to be especially aware of how much UV and HEV exposure your eyes receive if you spend a lot of time outdoors, if you are a welder, medical technologist or work in the graphic arts or if you take medications that can increase your sensitivity to UV light. While some studies show that people with blue or green eyes are more sensitive to damage, every eye color and ethnicity needs to be concerned about UV damage to the eyes.
The damage caused by both UV and HEV light is cumulative, so it’s best to start protecting yourself at an early age. Children are especially at risk because the lens of their eyes allows more UV light into the retina.
Wear sunglasses and a wide brimmed hat whenever you spend time outdoors. Look for sunglasses that screen out 99-100% of UV rays. Polarized lenses can help to reduce glare and brightness. Indoors, consider lenses designed to block 100% of blue light. There are also additional coatings available to help protect your eyes from computer and video screens.
Of course, if you have any questions at all about level of protection or what to look for when choosing sunglasses, our team at EyeCare Specialties would be more than happy to help you choose the right protection for your eyes and your lifestyle.