It may feel like summer has been dragging on for months—and it has. With extreme heat waves all over the globe, dry weather, droughts, and lots of sunshine, we’ve all been feeling the wrath of the sun this summer. You may be slathering on enough sunscreen and chugging enough water to stay healthy, but did you know there are hazards to your eyes during the summer season? Excellent eye care is a year-round endeavor and not a subject to be taken lightly. It is your vision, after all! Let’s take a look at what we know.
UV Radiation Has Serious, Long-Lasting Effects on Your Eyes
It is true, that awful UV radiation that is so strong in the summer time and bakes your skin to a shade of tan (or pink…or red) is also extremely dangerous for the health of your eyes and your vision. It does not matter if the UV radiation is natural (sunlight) or artificial (think tanning beds, and never get inside one of those again). Both short and long term damage can be done with UV exposure to your eyes, compromising eye health. Macular degeneration, the leading cause of age-related blindness, is aggravated by UV radiation. UV radiation also especially contribute to problems with cataracts. Photokeratitis, also known as corneal sunburn, is also commonly the result of exposure to UV radiation. Everyone who walks outside into the sunlight is at risk for UV damage to your eyes, and don’t assume your fine unless you have to shield your eyes or squint in order to see. Long-term UV radiation can begin to occur in the eye in as little as fifteen minutes.
Other Routine Summer Eye Care and Health Hazards
Of course, there are other activities in the summer that also pose a health risk to your eyes and to your vision you may not have ever truly thought of or even heard about. If you go swimming, you have surely heard of goggles, but you also probably rarely see them worn by adults. They are commonly thought of as just for precautions for children, but anyone can suffer from damage to their eyes while swimming. One of the major concerns is still UV radiation, of course, but, depending on where you are swimming, there are all sorts of chemicals and other irritants that can get into your eye and cause pain or infection. Viewing fireworks, as well, can have a bad effect on your eyes—you know how you can still see them when you close your eyes? Be careful, because your eyes can literally be burned. When playing outdoor sports or doing all that yardwork that needs doing during the summer season, watch out!
Protecting Your Eyes from Sun Damage and UV Radiation
The answer seems pretty obvious for how to protect your eyes from UV radiation and damage. Sunglasses are not just a medical device, they have long held a place in fashion and are some of the hottest accessories you can wear in the summer, no pun intended. However, prepare yourself for this truth bomb: Not all sunglasses fully protect your eyes from UV radiation. If you are not careful and make ill-informed choices, you may well be wearing ineffective sunglasses and thus getting just as much radiation damage to your eyes as if you were not wearing any at all. Some styles are just flat out bad for sun protection, such as sunglasses with flat lenses. Big sunglasses offer more complete protection, however, so good thing they’re in style! Always be on the lookout for a ‘UV protection’ sticker, as well.
Other Ways to Protect Your Eyes During the Summer
Believe it or not, our next suggestion for protective gear for your eyes during the summer season is not even worn on the eyes at all! You may scoff at the idea of wearing a sun hat, but, well, come on, it’s in the name! Sun hats are those that have wide, sometimes floppy brims and they offer protection just by blocking more of the sun’s rays from reaching your face, in the first place. We mentioned goggles earlier, but cannot stress enough the importance of always wearing goggles when you go swimming. You could be in an indoor pool, you could be out in a lake somewhere, it does not matter. There are all sorts of chemicals and germs that can get into your eyes and cause serious damage—we’ll spare the details of some of the more gnarly nasties.