Excess sun exposure can put people at risk of short-term and long-term eye problems. If eyes are exposed to strong sunlight for too long without protection, UV rays can burn the cornea. Long-term sun exposure has also been linked to an increased risk of cataracts and cancerous growths on or near the eye.
Here are five things people can do to cut their risk of eye damage from the sun:
- Wear the right sunglasses – Look for those labeled “UV400” or “100 percent UV protection” when buying sunglasses. Darkness or color doesn’t indicate strength of UV protection. UV rays can go through clouds, so wear sunglasses even on overcast days. Adding polarization can reduce glare coming off of reflective surfaces like water or pavement. It can provide clearer vision for activities like driving or being on the water. And while contacts may offer some benefit, they cannot protect the entire eye area from burning rays.
- Check your medication labels – One in three adults uses medication that could make the eyes more vulnerable to UV ray damage according to the American Academy of Ophthalmology. These include certain antibiotics and birth control pills. Check the labels on your prescriptions to see if they cause photosensitivity. If so, make sure to protect your skin and eyes or avoid sun exposure when possible.
- Put a lid on it – In addition to shades, consider wearing a hat with broad brim. They have been shown to significantly cut exposure to harmful rays. Don’t forget the sunscreen!
- Don’t drive without UV eye protection – Don’t assume that car windows are protecting you from UV light. A recent study found that side windows blocked only 71 percent of rays, compared to 96 percent in the windshield. Only 14 percent of side windows provided a high enough level of protection, the researchers found. So when you buckle up, make sure you are wearing glasses or sunglasses with the right UV protection.
- Don’t stare at the sun – Sun worshippers take note: directly gazing at the sun can burn the retina, the light-sensitive layer of cells in the back of the eye needed for central vision. This condition is called solar retinopathy. While rare, the damage is irreversible.
An associate in our Optical Departments can give you more information about how you can protect your eyes from excess sun exposure.