No Matter The Season, Your Eyes Need Sun Protection
By Courtney Francis, MD
Fall is nearly here, but even as you put away the sunscreen and pull out the long sleeves, remember that your and your family's eyes still need protection from the sun. UV rays may be most intense during the summer months, but they have the potential to damage your eyes any time of the year.
The good news is that Washingtonians have greater access to eye protection today than ever, regardless of their style or budget.
In fact, cost is largely irrelevant. Sunglasses on the drugstore clearance rack are just as effective as designer store sunglasses. The key is to choose a pair labeled as 100 percent UV-blocking. Hats provide sun protection as well. Broad-brimmed is best, but any coverage is better than none.
The Washington Academy of Eye Physicians and Surgeons (WAEPS) offers a few additional tips for selecting the right pair of sunglasses:
Make sure they have 100% UV or UV400 protection or block both UV-A and UV-B rays.
Sunglasses should have the largest lenses possible to protect your eyes from sun damage. Consider buying oversized or wraparound-style sunglasses.
Consider impact when buying your sunglasses. Plastic lenses are less likely than glass lenses to shatter if a rock or ball hits them.
No matter how good your sunglasses are, never look directly at the sun. Doing so can damage the eye's retina and lead to serious, permanent injury.
Consequences of long-term eye exposure to UV rays include, but certainly aren’t limited to:
Cataracts– These can take years to develop. Children and babies should wear a hat and sunglasses when exposed to the sun to help protect them against cataracts later in life.
Pterygium– These growths on the eye can appear in teens or young adults all the way into their twenties. At higher risk for developing these growths are surfers, fishermen, and others who spend hours near bodies of water under the midday sun.
Snowblindness– This dangerous form of photokeratitis can develop quickly after exposure to UV reflections off sand or snow.
Proper sun protection is a critical first step in protecting your and your family’s vision. Remember that your eyes are being exposed to ultraviolet rays regardless of whether the sun is out during the day. The Skin Cancer Foundation says that ultraviolet A rays are present all day and can cause skin aging and wrinkling, while ultraviolet B rays are strongest during peak hours (10 a.m. to 4 p.m.) and are stronger at higher altitudes and when reflected off water, ice or snow.
The important thing to remember is that, no matter the season, your eyes need sun protection.
Courtney Francis is President of the Washington Academy of Eye Physicians and Surgeons.