How much do you really know about UV & its effects on our health? You’ve probably already heard about how harmful tanning booths can be, from causing sunburns to skin cancers. It is recommended that you apply at least SPF30 generously if you’ll be spending time outside. Familiar, right? Well, what if your eyeballs could get sunburned? Truth be told, they can! (But more on that later…).
While the natural source of UV radiation is the sun, artificial sources like welding machines, lasers, and tanning beds also make you vulnerable. UV-C gets absorbed by the Earth’s ozone layer, but UV-A and UV-B, both of which reach us on the surface, can seriously damage your body, including your eyes and vision.
So what do you need to watch out for?
Cataracts: Clouding of the lens of the eye. Become more frequent with age, though taking measures early on can help prevent them.
Pterygium: Noncancerous growth on the eye, covering part of the white of your eye.
Photokeratitis: Like a sunburn to the cornea, it may not be noticed for hours. It may feel like having sand in your eyes and will result in redness, increased tear production, and potentially pain and swelling.
So what should you do? Stay out of the sun completely? Of course not! In fact, it’s been suggested that exposure to natural light helps regulate sleep cycles, preventing insomnia.
In the summer, UV rays can be at least 3 times higher than in the winter months. A moderate amount of time in the sun is acceptable, but only if you’re keeping up with SPF applications and taking care of yourself.
Wear a wide-brimmed hat
Staying in the shade helps keep UV rays away from your eyes, but using a hat makes the shade mobile! Providing more than one level of protection keeps your eyes their healthiest.
Invest in Sunglasses
Any sunglasses you buy, even cheap ones, should have the label 99-100% UV protection. If your sunglasses don’t offer full protection, they could cause even more harm to your eyes. Your pupil won’t react to the sunlight because of the protection from the sunglasses, so your eyes will actually absorb more UV radiation. A UV protective coating on your lenses will bounce the radiation off. Additionally, you may consider polarized lenses which will help to reduce glare, and colors will seem more vibrant. Ideally, the shape of your sunglasses will protect you from more than one angle. Wrap-around frames are ideal for people who can’t avoid being outside for long periods of time.