Sunny Days Outside? Don’t Forget Your Sunglasses to Protect Your Eyes.
“Head, shoulders, knees and toes…And eyes and ears and mouth and nose.” As the children’s song goes, taking good care of your eyes is much more important than you think. Repeated sun exposure without eye protection puts you at higher risk for vision complications. According to a study funded by the U.S. National Eye Institute, part of the National Institutes of Health, UV radiation can damage proteins in the eye’s lens. Over time, this damage can raise a person’s risk for cataracts, eye cancer and other eye diseases. Wearing your sunglasses on a bright day is just as important as wearing sunscreen. Research shows that the sun’s ultraviolet rays could lead to macular degeneration, a leading cause for age-related blindness. Prolonged unprotected exposure can lead to photokeratitis (aka welder’s burn), a sunburn on your eye that can cause temporary blindness or blotchy vision, cataracts and worsen glaucoma.
All sunglasses are not created equal. Make sure you look for sunglasses that shield against UV radiation. Sunglasses that don’t have UV protection can actually end up causing more harm to your eyes since your pupils get bigger in the darkness. When your pupils are wider you are exposing them to even more sunlight. There are different types of UV rays that have various effects on your eye. UVA, blue and violet rays can harm the back part of your eye called the macula. This part of your eye helps you to see detail and helps your brain translate light into images. UVB rays can harm the front part of your eye, where your lens and cornea are located. There are also man-made UV rays, from things like a tanning bed, welding machine or lasers, that can also be very harmful to your eyes.
Eye protection not only protects against the sun’s UV rays but also against the elements when you’re outdoors, like snow, water, sand, wind and dust. The sun’s reflection on bright or reflective surfaces, like snow when you’re skiing or water when you’re boating, can be just as harmful as direct UV rays. Wearing sunglasses can be double protection from the sun and from sand or particles in the air on a windy day. Getting sand or another object in your eye can be very dangerous, causing a scratch that could leave permanent damage.
Aside from the obvious sun protection and the potential to get something in your eye, eye protection can also help in other ways. Wearing polarized sunglasses can actually help you see better when outdoors, especially on the water. Polarized sunglasses can cut through the glare and make colors look more contrasted. Another benefit to wearing sunshades is that they can help reduce frequency and intensity of painful migraines and headaches. With sunglasses you’re likely to squint less and your eyes will be less fatigued.
All-in-all, there are so many reasons to make sure you’re wearing the right eye protection when you’re outdoors. Not only will your eyes be protected but you’ll look great too.