Summer is around the corner, and so are longer days with more hours of sunlight!
Most of us end up outside more often in the warm summer months, and that can expose our eyes to a lot of harmful UV radiation from the sun. That’s why it’s so important to wear UV-blocking sunglasses (though we should really be wearing them year-round whenever we go outside on a sunny day).
UV Rays Versus Our Eyes
Even when we aren’t staring directly into the sun, it can still affect our eyes. We can even get sunburns on the surface of our eyes (called photokeratitis) the same way our skin can get sunburned. The symptoms include tearing, redness, blurred vision, light sensitivity, and an unpleasant gritty sensation when blinking. Photokeratitis is a significant concern for skiers and snowboarders as well thanks to the way sunlight reflects off of snow, and sandy beaches can create the same effect.
The Damage From UV Rays Is Cumulative
Whatever UV exposure we get, that builds up over the course of our lifetimes. The more UV exposure our eyes get, the more we end up being at risk for sight-threatening conditions like cataracts and macular degeneration as we get older. We also become more susceptible to conditions like pinguecula, characterized by yellow or white bumps that form in the whites of the eyes, and surfer’s eye (pterygium), which is an overgrowth of the clear tissue in the whites of the eyes over the iris.
The Protection We Get From Sunglasses
The top priority we should have when choosing a pair of sunglasses is how effectively they protect our eyes from UV radiation. Fashion goals can come second. Make sure you check the label for things like “blocks at least 99% of UVA and UVB rays” before buying a pair. We also prefer sunglasses with larger lenses because of the coverage they offer.
An option that can be pricier but very effective is polarized lenses. They function like window blinds but on a microscopic level, blocking out light coming in from certain directions like the glare off other cars in traffic or the surface of the water at the beach. Check if the lenses are polarized by looking at your phone through them and then rotating them. If the colors change, the lenses are polarized!
Other Ways to Minimize UV Exposure
Sunglasses aren’t the only way we can protect our eyes (and our skin) against UV exposure. Others include:
- Avoiding being in the sun during the brightest hours of the day.
- Applying sunscreen regularly (particularly a dermatologist-approved kind).
- Wearing wide-brimmed hats to shield your eyes and head.
Let’s Find Your Best Sun Protection Gear!
We’re happy to help any of our patients who would like recommendations about sunglasses. Some are better than others for certain types of outdoor activities, and you might want to consider prescription sunglasses, transition lenses, or clip-ons that can go over your normal glasses. Contact us to schedule an appointment!