Most of us take special steps to protect our skin from the harsh summer sun. But our skin isn’t the only body part that needs protection – read on to find out how sunlight can affect your vision and what you can do to protect your eyes from sun-induced damage.
What are the risks of exposure?
Short term ultraviolet (UV) light exposure can actually cause a painful sunburn on the surface of the eyes, known as photokeratitis. More commonly referred to as “snow blindness,” this condition can be caused by reflection of sunlight from snow and ice, as well as exposure to UV lamps in a tanning bed.
If your unprotected eyes are continuously exposed to UV radiation over the course of many years, you may have a higher risk of developing cataracts, a gradual clouding of your lens that can impede healthy vision. In addition, chronic exposure to blue light, a particularly dangerous portion of the spectrum of light, may be linked to macular degeneration.
How can you protect your peepers?
Proper eyewear is critical in protecting your eyes from the damaging effects of sunlight. A good pair of sunglasses should offer 100% protection from the full spectrum of UV light (both UVA and UVB) from all angles (not just the front).
To help shield your eyes from blue light, look for a pair of glasses with orange or red-orange tint. Yellow, amber, gold and brown-tinted lenses also offer some protection against blue light. Lenses that block 100% of blue light should not be worn while driving, as they can distort the colors of traffic signals.
For extra protection, wear a wide-brimmed hat and be extra cautious about sun exposure between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., when sunlight is at its strongest.