A lot of us do more outdoor activities in the summer than in other seasons, and that exposes our eyes to more harmful UV rays than in the other seasons. This is why it’s so important that we have good, UV-blocking sunglasses to protect our eyes.
We don’t have to be staring directly into the sun for it to affect our eyes. We can actually get sunburns on our them in addition to our skin just by being outside for an extended period. These sunburns are called photokeratitis. Symptoms include a gritty sensation when blinking, redness, tearing, blurred vision, and light sensitivity. The same thing can happen on ski slopes due to the light reflecting off of snow. There, it’s called “snow blindness,” but it’s pretty common on bright, sandy beaches.
The effects of UV exposure are cumulative over time. The more sun exposure our eyes get in our lifetimes, the more it increases our risk of sight-threatening conditions like cataracts and macular degeneration. It also makes us more vulnerable to conditions like pterygium (“surfer’s eye,” which is an overgrowth of the clear tissue of the whites of the eyes towards the iris) and pinguecula (which are yellow or white bumps that form in the whites of the eyes).
Our first priority when selecting a pair of sunglasses should be UV protection. Fashion can come later. How can we be sure whether the lenses block UV rays? Check the label. It should say something like “blocks at least 99% of UVA and UVB rays.” The bigger the lenses, the better the coverage, too. Polarized lenses offer especially good protection because they block sunlight reflected off the surfaces around us (such as the surface of water and cars around us in traffic).
Besides wearing sunglasses, there are a few other things we can do to protect our eyes and skin from the sun:
If you need help finding the best sunglasses for your summer plans, we’re here to help! We know there are a lot of shades to choose from and they aren’t all best suited for every activity. We can also help with prescription sunglasses, and don’t hesitate to get in touch for an appointment if you’re experiencing symptoms of photokeratitis or other changes to your vision!