The Sun – it giveth life, and, if you’re not careful enough with it, it also taketh away. It is no secret that being overexposed to the sun’s rays can cause not only severe sunburns but also raises your chances of contracting cancer. However, your skin isn’t the only thing affected – your eyes can also suffer from exposure. Thanks to ultraviolet (UV) rays given off by the sun, sun damage to the eyes is very much real. Because UV light is very energetic compared to the visible spectrum, it can have a very nasty effect on your eyes if you stand around in the sun for too long. So, how do we protect our eyes from UV damage? Read on and find out.
Types of Radiation
There are two types of UV radiation we need to worry about – Higher frequency UV-A radiation and lower-frequency UV-B radiation.
Because of their higher frequency (longer wavelength), UV-A radiation can penetrate very deep into your eye, and cause damage to your retina. More accurately, UV-A radiation causes damage to the macula, a part of your retina at the back of your eye.
This causes macular degeneration. Once this starts happening, you’ll suddenly start losing your central vision, and the UV damage will cause you to see dark spots due to cells in your macula shutting down.
When it comes to UV-B radiation, it has a lot less penetrative power, but it is, nonetheless, very damaging, especially to your cornea. A high dose of UV-B radiation will cause sunburn of the cornea which can be very painful, as well as cause corneal cataracts, which will severely impair your vision.
How Do We Protect Our Eyes From UV Damage?
Wear UV-Blocking Sunglasses
Sunglasses, at least proper ones, aren’t just for show. The best way to protect your eyesight from harm is to wear UV400 and 100% UV-labeled glasses.
These sunglasses differ substantially from normal sunglasses – designed purposefully to block as much UV radiation as possible. Basically, they’re sunblock for your eyes!
The thing is, normal, low-quality sunglasses will only make the matter of UV damage worse. Because you’re looking through shaded glasses, your pupil will dilate to accommodate for the lack of light, which only means more UV radiation hits your cornea and retina.
The bottom line is – that don’t wear cheap sunglasses; instead, invest in high-quality, UV-rated sunglasses to protect your eyes.
Wear a Hat
Wearing a wide-brimmed hat or a baseball cap is one of the best ways to protect your eyesight from the sun, other than wearing sunglasses.
A wide-brimmed hat will protect your eyes from the sun’s rays falling directly on them. However, a hat’s protection isn’t absolute, so you should still be wearing sunglasses in tandem with the hat.
What If It Isn’t Sunny?
People always consider that, if it isn’t sunny outside, their eyes are safe from the sun. However, that isn’t the case, and you can still suffer UV damage, even if it’s cloudy outside.
Here’s the thing: UV rays are high-energy beams, and they will absolutely penetrate the clouds. Just because there isn’t a big yellow ball glowing in the sky, it doesn’t mean that it’s not there. So, even if it’s not sunny, you should still consider wearing some form of eye protection.
But, what about when it’s winter? The sun’s much less intense during winter, so you should be fine? Well, no, not really.
Unfortunately, there is something called snow glare and snow blindness. On a clear day, the snow, consisting of thousands of reflective ice crystals, can become very bright, and that glare you get off snow, in combination with the sun itself, can cause photokeratitis – sunburn of the eye.
This is why you’ll notice that many polar explorers wear goggles or those strange glasses with just narrow slits through which to see through. These weird glasses are purposefully made to reduce snow glare and prevent UV damage, so it doesn’t hurt to obtain a pair if you’re in an area where it snows a lot.
Don’t Look Directly at the Sun
This one should be a no-brainer, right? Yet, people like to play stupid games, and, occasionally, they win stupid prizes.
Much like with snow, looking directly at the sun, you’re direct route to the UV rays to assault your eyes. Staring at the sun will quickly cause photokeratitis, or even worse – cataracts, corneal sunburn, and cancer.
Avoid Peak Hours
This one is simple – avoid going outside when the sun is at its strongest.
This typically means that you should avoid the sun from around 10 am to about 2 pm. In case of a very intense summer, you’re better off avoiding the sun up until 4 pm.
And that’s all you need to know for now on how to protect your eyes from UV damage. Remember, early prevention is a lot less costly than treatment, so protect your eyes so that they may serve you for a long time. Also, visit your eye doctor regularly for checkups on your eye health!