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Protecting Your Eyes in the Sun

by kelly / June, 11 2014 01:30
Woman wearing sunglasses at the beach
© Beercha

Summer is here and the Polar Vortex is gone! It's been so nice to have sunshine and to be able to spend some weekends out and about, enjoying the weather. Of course I make sure to wear sunscreen every day and I might even put on a higher SPF in the summertime as I tend to spend more time out in the sun than in the winters. I'm well covered on my face and body but I sometimes neglect my eyes.

How the Sun Damages Eyes

Yes your eyes need protection from the sun as well. Just as the sun's UV rays can damage skin, they can also harm your eyes. The Skin Cancer Foundation has this to say about eye damage:

Although designed to protect the eye, the eyelid’s skin is thin and contains many fragile tissues vulnerable to UV light. Inside the eye, the lens and cornea, both transparent, filter UV rays, but years of UV absorption can damage them. The lens, the eye’s focusing mechanism, can turn yellowish and cataractous. The cornea, the area in front at the outer layer of the eye, admits light and images to the retina.

I know I sound alarmist in my post but the sun is powerful. Like your skin, your eyes and eyelids can develop cancers (find more on the different types at the Skin Cancer Foundation). According to WebMD:

UV radiation increases your odds of getting cataracts, which cloud the eye’s lens and lead to diminished eyesight. It has also been linked to macular degeneration, a treatable, but incurable disease of the macula, a part of the retina that is essential for sharp vision.

How to Protect Your Eyes With the Right Sunglasses

Fortunately, like your skin, there are easy ways to protect your eyes such as wearing sunglasses or wide brimmed hats when in the sun. Maybe this article will give you an excuse to buy some new accessories! I for one am excited to go buy a pair aviator lenses - supposedly they look good on most every face shape. But I digress - beyond the look of the lenses, according to the United States Environmental Protection Agency you should definitely look for glasses that block 99-100 percent of both UVA and UVB radiation.

One thing to note is that the color or how dark the sunglasses are does not indicate how effective it will be at blocking UV rays. If a pair of sunglasses doesn't offer details about its UV protection, I wouldn't buy it. Additionally, look for shades that can protect your eyes form every angle - so wrap around, close fitting and wide lenses can maximize protection.

The Skin Cancer Foundation also recommends sunglasses that protect against HEV light and polarized lenses. HEV (high energy visible light) is also known as visible blue/violet light. It's less common to find sunglasses that protect against his but ones that do are often labeled as blocking blue light, HEV light or near-UV light. Polarized lenses help reduce glare which can often be a problem in situations where light is reflected like driving, skiing or on the water.

Why Year Round Protection is a Must

You may associate sunglasses with summertime, but eye protection (and sunscreen) is important year round. One thing to remember is sunlight that bounces off highly reflective surfaces such as snow, water, sand or pavement can be especially dangerous.

Driving is a year round activity and for those that love skiing and snowboarding, snow is highly reflective, so it’s also important to wear goggles or sunglasses (and sunscreen) on the slopes. When buying goggles make sure that the pair provides ample UV protection.

That's it for this week. Enjoy the sun and always be safe and smart with your sun care!

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