UVA and UVB rays are extremely damaging to the delicate eyelid skin and are the number one cause of aging around the whole face. We've put together a guide with some hints and tips on why and how you should protect your eyes from the sun.
National Sunglasses Day
Before you dive into our top tips, did you know that Monday 27 June is National Sunglasses Day? Organised by the Vision Council, this awareness day seeks to promote the importance of wearing sunglasses. Read on to discover how the sun’s harmful UV rays can cause damage to your eyes if you don’t protect them.
1. Wear sunglasses outdoors
When you're buying your sunglasses, you don't want them to just look good; they need to play a functional role as well.
UVA and UVB rays can cause the development of small skin cancers - particularly around the high-risk eye region. Inside the eye, UV damage has been shown to accelerate the formation of cataracts and can cause damage to the retina, macular degeneration and scarring on the cornea known as a pterygium.
So, what do you need to look for when shopping for sunglasses? The most important element is a sticker that says UV400. With UV400 you can feel confident that your glasses will filter out harmful UVA and UVB rays. Make sure that the glasses carry the ‘CE’ mark or British Standard BS EN ISO 12312-1:2013.
Also consider the size of the glasses. The bigger the better, because they’ll provide more coverage, protecting the sensitive region from the brow to the upper cheek.
Avoid the hottest part of the day (usually between midday and 2pm) when the sun is at its strongest. Be especially careful when you’re on the beach as sand can magnify the sun’s power and affect your eyes.
Remember that, even on cloudy days, UV rays can penetrate the clouds so be sure to wear your sunglasses even if it’s dull outside.
2. Wear goggles if you’re in the pool
If you’re planning on doing lots of swimming, or just relaxing in the pool, don’t forget to take your goggles. The chlorinated water in the pool can wash away the thin layer of tears that coat our eyes, known as the tear film. This can aggravate your eyes, making them feel gritty and affecting your vision.
And, while chlorine keeps the water clean, there may still be germs in there. Make sure you stick to facilities you know you can trust and which regularly monitor water quality.
The same goes for swimming in the sea, the salty water can cause redness and irritation. Avoid prolonged periods of swimming underwater with your eyes open unless you’re wearing well-fitted goggles. Apply eye drops before and after swimming to keep your eyes lubricated.
3. Watch what you get in your eyes
If you get sun cream in your eye, the chemicals in the lotion can irritate the surface of the eye. Apply your sunscreen carefully, especially around the eye area. Avoid spray-on sunscreens near your face.
If you do get lotion in your eye, don’t panic or rub your eye. Remove your contact lenses (if you’re wearing them) and wash it out as soon as possible with eye drops or flush with clean water for 15-20 minutes.
If you think that sun cream or sand has scratched or caused any damage to your eye seek medical help as soon as possible.
4. Protect your eyes if you’re doing DIY
Summer is a favourite time of the year to complete DIY projects around the house. If you’re working with tools or in a very dusty environment, make sure you wear suitable eye protection which fit snugly on your face. Polycarbonate lenses are best because they’re lightweight and scratch resistant.
If you’re using chemicals, especially outdoors, make sure that you face upwind and away from any sprayer or applicator.
5. Stay comfortable if you’re travelling
If you’re spending a lot of time in the car, make sure you aim the air conditioning vents away from your eyes. This will prevent your eyes from becoming dry and uncomfortable.
If you are traveling by plane this summer, be aware of the low cabin pressure and recirculated air. Remember to drink lots of water and, if needed, use drops for dry eyes. If you wear them, make sure to remove your contact lenses on the plane.
Ophthalmology treatments at Benenden Hospital
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Published on 27 June 2022