Just as the sun can injure your skin, it can hurt the delicate tissue of your eyes, too. Long-term exposure to UVA and UVB rays contributes to cataracts and age-related macular degeneration. Cataracts, cloudy areas on your eye’s lens, can be corrected with surgery; there is no effective treatment for macular degeneration, and it can lead to blindness.
Did you know you can also get melanoma of the eye? Unprotected UV exposure from the sun or tanning beds increases the risk of this type of cancer. And, of course, squinting against the sun’s glare can lead to wrinkles around the eyes.
Related post: Tanning beds and skin cancer
Hats and sunglasses are your best protection against the sun’s damaging rays. Wear hats with wide brims that block out light from the sides as well as from above.
Buy sunglasses that block UV rays; specifically those that protect against both UVA and UVB rays.
Read the labels! Look for a label that claims:
- “blocks 99 to 100 percent of UVA and UVB rays” or
- “absorbs up to 400 nm of UV radiation” or
- “UV 400”
Do not buy sunglasses that simply say “absorbs UV” or “blocks the sun.”
The color or darkness of the lens does not matter. Neither does the cost. Good, protective sunglasses do not need to be expensive. Buy what your budget and fashion sense allow.
Polarized lenses do not block UV rays, but they mitigate glare, which is useful when on the water. 😎
Childrens’ eyes are particularly sensitive to the sun! Make sure they wear a hat and protective sunglasses, as well.
Knowing exactly how damaging the sun’s rays are throughout the day is a real incentive to protect yourself. Last year, I put the Environmental Protection Agency’s UV Index app on my phone (it’s free!), and have used it ever since. (Get iOS version here)
The UV index is a measurement of the strength—the damaging effect—of the sun’s uv rays. A zero rating is very low, while a rating greater than 8 is very high. It reminds me that even on a cloudy day (and we have plenty of those here in Seattle) the sun’s UV rays can be at an extreme level. As a result, I have been much more diligent about using sunscreen, wearing a hat and wearing sunglasses.
Our eyes are amazing pieces of equipment! An inexpensive hat and pair of shades are all you and your kids need to keep your peepers safe and working well. Enjoy the sun!
Consider these products: