July is National UV Safety Month, according to the American Academy of Ophthalmology. Just as we need to take precautions to protect of our skin from harmful UV rays, our eyes are also susceptible to damage from the sun! Simple preventative steps can eliminate a lifetime of complications from vision loss or deterioration of one of our most valuable senses…our sight! The eyes are at risk for diseases such as pterygium (a benign growth in the eye), cataracts, age-related macular degeneration and uveal cancer (which is similar to skin cancer but develops in the eyes).
First of all, it’s important to wear sunglasses outdoors, which will block 100% of UVA and UVB rays. Damage from UV rays is a slow-developing condition that may start in your teens or early in your adult years, so it’s never too soon to start protecting your sight! As the summer months pound us with that hot summer sun, it’s especially important to take steps to shield our eyes. Wearing a broad brim hat while enjoying the outdoors, in addition to wearing quality sunglasses, can substantially reduce our risks of developing degenerative diseases of the eyes. Though it might seem like damage can only result in the brightest of days, don’t be fooled! The sun’s rays pass right through the clouds and subject our eyes to damaging rays. Even in the winter months, especially when snow skiing, the sun reflecting off snow and ice can be just as hazardous! Studies have found that most people do not adequately protect themselves from the sun while snow skiing. Skiers are impacted most in the late winter and early spring, as UV rays are most damaging during these colder times of the year.
The sun is at its strongest during the hours of 10:00 am and 2:00 pm; hence we should take special care to protect ourselves during these times of peak sunlight.
Indoor tanning has become an increasing source of eye damage in America. Though tanning salons have sought to increase awareness of eye damage experienced by tanners neglecting to wear eye protection in tanning beds, the risks don’t seem to be taken seriously enough. Some salons have even used graphic photos of eye damage at the counter in an effort to drive the point home to customers. It’s an admirable attempt at prevention, but the best medicine for avoiding eye problems resulting from tanning beds is to stay out of them altogether! Tanning beds can generate UV rays 100 times as powerful as the sun’s rays. Just think of the rapid damage that could occur from not wearing adequate eye protection, not to mention the effects on the skin!
For added protection, there are all-natural supplements available which are specially formulated for eye health. Look for ones that specifically target eye health with vitamin A, C and E, as well as powerful antioxidants like grapeseed extract and lutein to keep you seeing your best!
We’ve covered the risks of skin cancer and skin diseases as a result of overexposure to the sun. And we all know the benefits of adequate sunscreen and how it can better protect us from these diseases. It’s just not as apparent that we also need to protect our eyes from the same hazards! Now you know! So, take steps to protect your sight. Sight is precious and it’s worth saving!