Summer 2021: How can you protect your eyes from the sun?
06 July 2021
Summer is finally here!
On the (unfortunately) occasional day the UK gets some sunny warm weather, we usually bring out the SPF to protect our skin from the harmful UV rays of the sun which could lead to skin cancer. But of course, we must protect our eyes from the sun too!
What are UV rays, and why are they harmful?
- UV rays are part of the natural energy produced by the sun. On the electromagnetic spectrum, UV light has shorter wavelengths than visible light, which is why UV rays are not visible to the naked eye.
- There are also different types of UV rays that are damaging to our skin and eyes in distinctive ways, including UVA and UVB. UVA (or Ultraviolet A) has a shorter wavelength and is known to age our skin while UVB (Or Ultraviolet B) is known to burn our skin. These rays emitted from the sun can cause extensive eye damage, including cataracts and eyelid cancers. This is the reason why a pair of good quality sunglasses is a staple of summer – sadly, our eyes can’t protect themselves!
Why do I need to protect my eyes?
If you take a more detailed look into why eye protection is so important, it becomes increasingly apparent that eye protection should be a key part of making sure we stay safe during the summer. Prolonged exposure to the UV rays emitted from the sun can lead to:
- Cataracts: Cataracts are when the lens, a small transparent disc inside your eye, develops cloudy patches. Over time these patches usually become bigger causing blurry, misty vision and eventually blindness. A study from the National Eye Institute (NEI) found that the damaging UV rays from the sun trigger a process called ‘oxidising stress’: a harmful chemical reaction occurring when our cells consume oxygen and other fuels to produce energy. UV rays can harm the lens proteins that are usually found in cataracts due to oxidative stress.
- Macular degeneration: Macular degeneration is a vision impairment leading to a thin layer in the centre of the retina deteriorating; this is another condition that could result in blindness. While the relationship between UV rays and macular degeneration has not been studied significantly, there is evidence to suggest a link between prolonged exposure to UV rays and macular degeneration.
- Pterygium: Pterygium is a pink-coloured growth that appears on the ‘conjunctiva’, the clear tissue on the eye. UV rays from the sun are the most common cause of pterygium. The condition is also known as ‘surfer’s eye’, as those who take part in water sports are especially at risk of intense UV exposure in these environments. This is because the rays reflect off of sand and water – another good reason to pack the sunglasses next time you hit the beach!
- Pinguecula: A pinguecula is another growth that can form on the conjunctiva of the eye due to exposure to UV rays. While it is non-cancerous, it can cause dry, bloodshot eyes and blurred vision. Continued exposure to UV light encourages the growth to keep growing, so proper eye protection in the sun is your safest bet against this condition.
- Photokeratitis: Photokeratitis is a condition that is essentially like having a sunburned eye, making it quite a painful condition to have. The UV rays from sunlight harm the cornea and conjunctiva (the front of the eye), triggering symptoms such as pain, redness, blurry vision, and headaches. This condition and its symptoms can be prevented by taking the necessary precautions to protect your eyes from the sun, such as wearing broad-rimmed hats as well as sunglasses.
Sunglasses: Prescription VS Non-Prescription
After describing the various conditions UV damage can produce above, the importance of good eye protection is now clear to see, so these conditions can be prevented from happening as much as possible. Sunglasses are the clear answer to this problem, but there are two different types of sunglasses available – prescription and non-prescription sunglasses.
Non-prescription sunglasses are generally cheaper and more widely available on the market as they can be purchased anywhere, but the biggest issue with them is that they can only protect your eyes from the sun and not aid your vision. Prescription sunglasses are suitable for those with myopia (short-sightedness) and hyperopia (long-sightedness).
Ditch the prescription sunglasses this summer
Let’s be honest, the annoying thing about prescription sunglasses is that they’re not exactly cheap, and there is no way of avoiding using them in the summer if you want to, you know, see. Why struggle between wearing your prescription glasses and sunglasses? Why let your bank balance suffer just because of your vision?
Spend less time this summer fretting over your glasses and more on getting a gorgeous tan – book yourself in for a FREE Laser Eye Surgery Consultation at Ultralase today!
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