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Summer Tips for Healthy Eyes

Ah, summertime. A season many regard as the best one, complete with vacations and summer sports. And what do all those activities have in common? Why the sun, of course!

Most of us can’t get enough of that summer sun. It makes our skin darker, our hair lighter, and the days longer. What more could you ask for? But, sunshine isn’t all… sunshine. It’s illuminating rays are filled with all sorts of UV rays, completely undetectable to the naked eye.

Most people understand the effects UV rays can have on your skin but are unaware of the damage they can do to your eyes. Did you know that your eyes can actually get sunburned? We know that sunglasses protect your eyes, but what else can you do to protect them against the summer sun?

What type of sunglasses should you be wearing?

Not all sunglasses are equal. The cheap pair in the checkout line at the store and a high quality pair with UV blocking lenses are a world apart. Cheaper pairs let less light into your eyes but blocking the UV rays you can’t see that matter most. It’s a well established fact that UV rays can do some serious, long term damage to your eyes. So, when you go looking for a new pair of sunglasses, keep a few things in mind.

First, you’ll want a pair with lenses that block at least 98% of ultraviolet radiation. There are three kinds of UV rays, classified by their heat intensity: UV-A, UV-B, and UV-C. UV-C rays have the most potential to harm our bodies. Thankfully, the OZONE layer blocks most of these rays and protects us from this intense form of radiation.

UV-A and UV-B rays still make it through the OZONE though, and these are the rays we have to deal with. The effect these rays have on our eyes doesn’t show up until we’re older. By then, the damage is irreversible and unable to be cured completely.

When you buy your next pair of sunglasses, make sure they say they block both UV-A and UV-B rays. This should be on either a sticker on the glasses or on the packaging they come in. If you’re at a store that sells glasses, ask the salespeople which pairs are good at blocking UV rays.

There are a few more things to think abut when shopping for sunglasses. Sunglasses with a lighter tint can block UV rays as well as those with darker tints, though darker glasses block out more visible light.

Also, because it’s overcast, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t wear sunglasses. Sunlight may not penetrate the clouds but UV rays can. Clouds are mostly water, which is UV transparent.

Finally, remember that if you wear contact lenses, you still need to wear sunglasses. Even if your contacts offer UV protection, they pale in comparison to a good pair of UV blocking sunglasses.


Avoiding Eye Sunburn

Having a sunburn on your eyes isn’t fun. Unfiltered UV light can cause instant pain and a lot of issues for your vision further down the road. Photokeratitis is the technical term for a sunburn of the eyes and comes from prolonged exposure to ultraviolet rays.
Damage from an eye sunburn falls into two main types. The first, Pterygium, is a pink or reddish growth on the white of the eye. It’s also known as “surfer’s eye.” The second type of damage are yellowish bumps on the eye’s surface called Pinguecula.
Both of these conditions may be caused by sun damage to the cornea, which takes the brunt of the effects of UV rays. Your eye doctor can treat both of these conditions with medicated eye drops. In some cases, you may need surgery to remove the growths. Eyes that have been damaged by UV rays long-term can appear dull, cloudy, and discolored, and over time, cataracts may begin to form.
If the sunburn is mild, you may not notice any side effects at all. If it’s severe, symptoms may show between three to twelve hours after exposure. These symptoms include:
  • Pain ranging from mild to severe
  • Bloodshot eyes
  • Light sensitivity
  • Teary eyes
  • Blurred vision
  • The sensation of having something in your eye
If you’re experiencing any of these symptoms, you may have burned your eyes. The best thing to do is remove your contacts, if applicable, use some hydrating eye drops, and call your doctor.

Quick Tips for Eye Safety in Summer

In addition to buying a good pair of sunglasses, here are a few more tips to protect your eyes when the sun is shining strongest.
  • Always wear sunglasses when outside, even if it’s for a few minutes.
  • Summer is a great time for DIY projects around the house. Make sure you’re wearing adequate eye protection when working with tools, dust, or debris.
  • If you enjoy swimming, be sure to wear goggles to protect your eyes. The chlorine in pools, salt in the ocean, and debris in interior waterways can do some damage.
  • Believe it or not, too much time around an air conditioner can dry your eyes out. Consider taking it easy on the AC and using eye drops to keep your eyes hydrated.
  • Limit outdoor time during the peak hours of 10am-2pm when the sun is at it’s strongest.
  • Blink more! Blinking is your body’s natural way of keeping your eyes moist and protected.
  • Don’t ignore summer allergies as they can make your eyes itchy and watery.
  • If you’re planning in spending extended time in a car this summer, make sure you aim the A/C vents away from your eyes.
  • Avoid prolonged exposure to sand and water. Both can magnify the sun’s power!

Extra Tips for Glasses Users

If you’re one of the millions who need prescription glasses, it can be tough to protect your eyes from the sun’s rays. The easiest way to solve this is to speak to your doctor and see if a pair of prescription sunglasses is an option. Most clear prescription eyeglasses have some UV protection built into the lens. You can ask for a UV coating to add extra protection.

Another way is to talk to your doctor about switching to contact lenses with UV protection. But, as we’ve mentioned before, they should still be used with UV blocking sunglasses.
Thanks for reading our tips for summer eye safety. We at 20/20 Institute of Denver wish you and your family a happy and healthy summer!
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