July is UV Awareness Month

At long last, summer is finally here. We can finally put away our winter wear and enjoy the long, glorious days of basking in the sunshine. Picnics, barbeques, camping, going to the beach, or just staying home and lounging by the pool. But don’t forget that the warm sunshine we miss so much during out long, cold winter, can do much more than provide us with light, warmth and Vitamin D. The Ultraviolet radiation coming from the sun is capable of doing as much harm as good. Make sure you use sunscreen to protect yourself from getting a nasty sunburn and potential skin cancer. But remember that sunburn isn’t the only thing you have to fear from UV rays. Your eyes also need to be protected.

How Can Ultraviolet Radiation Damage My Eyes?

Anyone who has ever gotten sunburned is well aware of the potential danger of spending too much time under the sun’s rays. It is no different with your eyes. Overexposure to UV rays can cause cataracts, macular degeneration and even skin cancer around the eyelid. And don’t be fooled by clouds. Just like you can get a sunburn on a cloudy day, so can your eyes be damaged, even if you can’t see the sun though the clouds. But unlike your skin, where the heaviest damage occurs around midafternoon, eyes are effected most often in the early morning and late afternoon, when you are most likely to be looking directly into the rising or setting sun.

Photokeratitis, Not Just A Winter Problem

Photokeratitis, better known as snow blindness, is most often associated with winter activities, but you can get it just as easily in summer. It is, quite literally, a sunburn on the eye, and although it is usually caused by sunlight reflected off the snow, it can just as easily be reflected off the water. So if you are playing water sports, swimming, or just hanging around the pool or beach, you are just as likely to get photokeratitis as you would when skiing or snowboarding. When you consider the symptoms, mild to severe pain, bloodshot eyes, light sensitivity, blurred vision, headaches, you may want to give photokeratitis a pass.

How Do I Avoid UV Related Eye Problems?

Avoiding eye issues caused by UV rays can be done as easily as avoiding sunburn. Limit your exposure. When out in the sun, where a good pair of UV blocking sunglasses. Remember that not all sunglasses are created equal, so make sure that the ones you buy are guaranteed to block 100 percent of UV radiation. Wear a hat when out in bright sunlight, and make sure not to stare directly at the sun, or onto light reflecting surfaces, such as water. Use eye drops, to keep your eyes from drying out, especially on particularly dry, windy days. And as much as you enjoy the sun, take a break now and then, to rest both your eyes and body.

What Do I Do If I Think I Have Overexposed My Eyes To UV Radiation?

If you experience pain, blurred vision, red eyes, headaches, or other symptoms that may be caused by overexposure to UV radiation, see your optometrist immediately. Don’t take chances with your vision.