Time to Go Outside! But Protect Your Eyes.

Most of us have been spending a lot of time indoors as we’ve been socially distancing during the coronavirus pandemic. But experts tell us that we need to get outside! Spending time outdoors provides us with vitamin D, reduces depression, improves sleep and even promotes longevity.  

By now we know precautions to take as we venture out. Even in the open air, we should stay six feet away from others, and wear a mask any time that’s not possible. And in 2020 and every year, we should take the standard summer safety precautions, such as avoiding getting overheated and using sunscreen.

Professionals from the American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO) remind us to protect our eyes, as well! July is UV Safety Month, a great time for a reminder that during the summer months, the level of harmful ultraviolet radiation is three times greater than in winter. Sun exposure can cause temporary or even permanent eye damage, called photokeratitis (“sunburn of the eye”). And it raises the risk of many sight-robbing eye conditions, including cataracts, macular degeneration and even cancer of the eye or eyelid.

We can protect our eyes by wearing a broad brimmed hat and sunglasses. But not just any sunglasses! Sunglasses aren’t just a fashion accessory, though of course many of us don a pair when we want to look fabulous. Set aside your pursuit of glamor for a few minutes and review these sunglasses shopping tips:

Read the label. No, not the designer’s name, but the sticker or tag, which should indicate that those shades block 99 to 100% of both UVA and UVB radiation (the two types of harmful UV rays).

Go for oversized shades. The Jackie O look is not only fashionable, but also provides more coverage for your eyes. Oversize and wraparound styles cut down on UV rays from the top, bottom and sides.

Color isn’t everything. We might think that very dark lenses provide better protection, but the AAO says that amber, green and gray lenses also are fine so long as they block 99 to 100% of UV rays.

Polarized lenses cut glare, not UV. They can make it easier to see when driving, boating or playing golf, but in itself polarization does not block more UV rays.

No need to splurge. Some high-end designer shades might offer inadequate sun protection while, says the AAO, “Less expensive pairs marked as 100% UV-blocking can be just as effective as pricier options.”

And one last reminder from the AAO: We shouldn’t tuck our sunglasses into a drawer a few months from now when summer’s over. Eye protection is a year-round goal. For example, photokeratitis can strike on winter days—not only mountain climbers are subject to “snow blindness”!  “It’s important to protect your eyes year-round, not just during the summer,” said Dr. Dianna Seldomridge, clinical spokesperson for the AAO. “Harmful UV rays are present even on cloudy days. Wearing a wide-brimmed hat also cuts down on exposure.”

The AAO offers lots more information about protecting your eyes from the sun on their consumer information website, EyeSmart. It’s a great place to get the best advice from leading vision health professionals.

Source: IlluminAge with information from the American Academy of Ophthalmology.

The information in this article is not intended to replace the advice of your doctor. Discuss your eye health with your ophthalmologist or other eye health professional.