Ah, summer! Watermelon is in season, ice cream becomes its own food group, and the sun shines high and proud!
We spend our days soaking up its rays, happy to trade in our sweaters for swimwear. However, those rays we have longed for all winter can quickly become our nemesis if we take its damaging effects lightly. Understanding how to protect both our skin and our eyes during these warm and welcome summer months has lifelong benefits. As June is Vision Research Month, this blog article will discuss how this important research impacts our health, and will offer tips and suggestions for keeping our eyes healthy, now and in the future. As the American population ages, the need for proper and complete vision health research increases. Ophthalmologists work diligently to keep up-to-date with the latest vision research. And with proper care and regularly scheduled check-ups, individuals can do their part in protecting their vision and keeping their eyes healthy.
Protect Your Eyes from UV Rays
UV radiation is one of the most harmful, and naturally occurring, enemies to our skin and our eyes. There are several classes of this radiation:
- UV-A: UV-A rays account for up to 95 percent of the solar radiation that reaches the earth’s surface. These long wavelengths penetrate into deeper layers of the skin, potentially initiating or exacerbating the development of skin cancer, and at a minimum, wrinkles. UV-A rays occur year round and penetrate both clouds and glass.
- UV-B: These mid-length wavelengths are very active, and are responsible for burning and tanning our skin. UV-B radiation plays a key role in skin cancer. Its strength varies by season, location and time of day. In the U.S., April through October are the months with the highest UV-B exposure, and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. are when these rays are their strongest.
Please keep in mind that it isn’t just our skin at risk. Constant exposure to bright sunlight can cause significant damage to the eyes’ corneas, retinas, and lenses. Prolonged exposure to UV rays has also been linked to the development of cataracts, and the worsening of macular degeneration and dry eyes.
So, what’s the best defense against UV-A and UV-B sunlight radiation? Through the efforts of vision researchers across the globe, their findings point to a simple solution: sunglasses with UV filtering lenses. The following are tips to keep in mind when purchasing sunglasses:
- Always choose lenses that offer 100 percent UV protection.
- As long as UV protection is in place, lens color doesn’t matter.
- Tint has nothing to do with the UV protection of the lens
- Polarized / anti-glare lenses are NOT guaranteed to have UV protection. Check first!
- Children need UV-protected lenses too
Another important action to combat the effects of the sun’s ray on the eyes is to wear a wide-brimmed hat, which increases shading for the eyes. And monitoring the amount of time spent in the sun during peak hours has a positive effect on eye and skin health. As mentioned before, children require the same protection. Their developing eyes are more translucent, increasing their susceptibility to UV damage. Ensuring that the children in your care are equipped with UV protected sunglasses and wide-brimmed hats is not only a proactive measure, but one that will assist in forming healthy habits for life.
For individuals who have undergone cataract surgery, or are considering the procedure, you can rest assured that all lenses used in cataract surgery have UV-A and UV-B protection.
Treatment for UV-Related Eye Damage
Macular degeneration, also known as age-related macular degeneration, is caused by aging, smoking, hypertension, and prolonged exposure to harmful UV rays. Modern researchers have developed a treatment for macular degeneration, where patients’ eyes are injected with medicine.
Dry eye, or the inability to naturally produce tears, is another symptom of prolonged exposure to sunlight. Traditionally, the only prescription drug available to patients was an anti-inflammatory medication known as Cyclosporine. However, through the efforts of vision researchers and scientists, new treatments for Dry Eye Syndrome have been approved by the FDA.
One of these treatments is known as Xiidra, a prescription eye drop, which treats both the signs and symptoms of Dry Eye Syndrome. A conversation with a qualified ophthalmologist about the pros and cons of using this, or any new treatment (either over-the-counter or by prescription) is a must.
The professionals at the Nielsen Eye Center care about the health of your eyes and your vision. To schedule an appointment for your regular eye check-up, or to discuss vision research with a vision expert, call us at 617-471-5665 today!