/ by Claire Fraser, MD
Now that the solar eclipse is over, it’s a good idea to review the basics of everyday sun protection for your eyes. Long-term exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation in sunlight can lead to damage on the inside and the outside of your eyes.
There is an increased risk of developing cancers of both the eyelids and the eye itself with increased exposure to the sun. Long-term sun exposure can also result in chronic eye irritation and non-cancerous growths. Sun exposure can even cause cataracts. Every time we are out in the sun without eye protection, we may be adding damage that increases our risk. These problems can take years to develop, but it’s never too early to protect your eyes.
Eye protection is important all year. Snow-blindness is a type of painful damage to the front of the eye that can occur when UV rays are reflected from ice and snow.
For these reasons, eye doctors recommend that you wear proper sunglasses and a brimmed hat when you’re in the sun for long periods of time. Here are nine tips for eye protection:
1. Choose the right sunglasses.
Look for sunglasses that offer at least 99 percent UV absorption. Glasses with 100 percent UV absorption are even better. This can also be indicated by a label stating, “UV absorption up to 400 nm.”
2. A darker lens isn’t always the best.
It can make your eyes feel more comfortable in bright light, but it doesn’t mean improved UV protection. A colored lens such as amber, green or gray can still have 100 percent UV absorption.
3. Large-framed lenses offer more protection.
Larger frames and wraparound styles allow fewer UV rays to reach the eye from around the glasses. This means more protection to the eyes and eyelids.
4. You don’t have to spend a lot of money.
There are excellent inexpensive options for sunglasses that offer 100 percent UV protection.
5. All sunglasses must meet impact standards.
These standards are set by the Food and Drug Administration for safety. Plastic lenses are less likely to shatter when hit by an object. For sports, get plastic lenses that offer shatter-protection.
6. Sun damage can happen during all seasons.
Don’t forget to protect your eyes during the winter months, especially when outside in the snow.
7. Tanning beds can cause severe eye damage.
Tanning beds can produce UV radiation levels up to 100 times higher than that from the sun.
8. Never look directly at the sun, even with sunglasses.
Looking directly at the sun at any time can lead to permanent damage to the center of your vision.
9. Protect your children’s eyes, too.
Don’t forget to protect your children’s eyes with hats and sunglasses. Damage from UV radiation adds up over time.