‘Tis the season of warm weather, weekend outings and beach trips. But before you head on out to enjoy it all, you should ask yourself: are your eyes going to be safe once you exit through the door?
Just as exposure to UV rays harms our skin, UV rays can bring our eye health down dramatically. UV rays contribute to our risk of blindness due to diseases such as macular degeneration and cataracts. They can even cause corneal sunburns - and while this condition is temporary, once sun damage occurs to the eye, our risk of developing sun-related eye issues increases. Because of this, your best bet this season is to use seasonal eye care that will protect your vision for years to come. The following three tips are particularly vital in preventing sun-related vision issues:
- Get a good pair of sunglasses ready! Sunglasses are your #1 defense against UV rays and UV-related eye issues. But not just any pair of sunglasses will do! According to a national Sun Safety Survey conducted by the American Academy of Ophthalmology, only about half of people who wear sunglasses say they check the UV rating before buying. Don’t be a part of this statistic. Take the time to find a pair that will provide full protection from both UVB and UVA rays. Sunglasses should also sit high on your face - bringing them as close to your skin as possible; the best ones will even wrap around your head, protecting your eyes from side-glare and exposure. And once you’ve got a good pair of glasses, be sure to keep them on hand wherever you go. Experts note that many people forget to wear sunglasses during outdoor concerts, major events such as NASCAR, or while during in the car. All that exposure adds up - so be sure to avoid it in the first place!
- Grab a hat to go with those sunglasses. Sunglasses are just one piece of the summer eye protection plan. A wide-brimmed hat (or visor) is also critical in adding another layer of protection, as they can reduce exposure from UV rays that may otherwise sneak around the sides of your glasses. Experts especially recommend this extra layer of protection at the beach, during visits to amusement parks, on bike rides or boating trips...pretty much anyplace where you’ll get some prolonged sun exposure. Just like your sunglasses, you’ll want to keep your hat on standby and ready for use!
- Take the time and weather into consideration before heading outside. We’re backing up a step here. Even if you have your sunglasses and hat, this final tip is the ultimate UV ray safeguard. You’ve likely heard that going out midday is not good for your skin. The same applies to your eyes! This is because sunlight is strongest mid-day to early afternoon - meaning, more UV ray exposure. Staying indoors as much as possible between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m is your best bet in reducing UV exposure. In addition to checking the clock before heading out, you’ll also want to consider your location. For example, if you’re here in Pittsburgh, it’s important to remember that our infamous, near-daily cloud cover won’t block UV light. In fact, the sun’s rays can pass through haze and clouds - so you’ll want to keep your sunglasses you on any time you head out into town. And if you’re heading out to the beach or to higher altitudes, definitely keep your sunglasses on, as UV rays can reflect off of water (and increase in intensity as we climb higher).
Summer eye care is just as critical as summer skin care. Just as you should always protect your skin with sunscreen, you should always use these tips to keep your eyes’ exposure to direct sunlight at a minimum. Protecting your eyes now will go a long way in protecting your vision in the years to come - so what are you waiting for? Get those glasses, grab a hat, and get moving into a healthier summer!