In addition to the article about how to avoid heat stress – or worse – heat stroke on page 23, this month is also national UV Safety Month. The American Academy of Ophthalmology and the Polk County Medical Association want to help everyone understand the dangers of over exposure to ultraviolet radiation. UV rays can cause serious damage to your eyes.
As a local ophthalmologist, I unfortunately see cases of compromised eyesight due to lack of protection from UV rays. Ultraviolet radiation, regardless of whether it is from natural sunlight or artificial indoor rays, can damage the eye’s surface tissues as well as the cornea and lens. By practicing a few simple safety precautions, you can enjoy the summer while lowering your risk of potentially blinding eye diseases and tumors.
I recommend these tips from geteyesmart.org to protect your eyes from the sun:
- Select sunglasses that block UV rays. Don’t be deceived by color or cost. The ability to block UV light is not dependent on the price tag or how dark the sunglass lenses are.
- Make sure your sunglasses block 100 percent of UVA and UVB rays.
- Choose wraparound styles. Ideally, your sunglasses should wrap all the way around to your temples, so the sun’s rays can’t enter from the side.
- Wear a hat in addition to your sunglasses. Broad-brimmed styles provide the best protection for your eyes.
- Don’t rely on contact lenses. Even if your lenses have UV protection, remember to wear your sunglasses, too.
- Don’t be fooled by clouds: the sun’s rays can pass through haze and thin clouds. Sun damage to eyes can occur anytime during the year, not just in the summertime—so be sure to wear sunglasses whenever you’re outside.
- Never look directly at the sun. Looking directly at the sun at any time, including during an eclipse, can lead to solar retinopathy, which is damage to the eye’s retina from solar radiation.
- Take special care at peak sun times: It’s best to avoid exposure between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m., when the sun’s UV rays are the strongest, but if you must be outdoors it’s especially important to shield your eyes with a hat and sunglasses.
- Don’t forget the kids and older family members: everyone is at risk, including children and senior citizens. Protect their eyes with hats and sunglasses too.
Richard Hamilton, MD
Ophthalmologist at Center for retina and Macular Disease
President-Elect, Polk County Medical Association