By Dr. Jaime Johnson, OD
Are you getting ready for spring break or a summer vacation? April is Women’s Eye Health and Safety Month — it’s a great time to think about following some good habits that will help you protect your eyes. For women, one of biggest risks you face every day is from the sun’s harmful UV rays.
Sun damage to the eyes begins when we are children, and continues to affect us more as we get older. So if you’re a parent, it’s especially important to understand the health risks that harmful UV rays pose not only to your eyes but also your children’s.
As an eye doctor , I make it a point to help my patients understand how they can protect their eyes from sun damage. Be sure to visit your eye doctor regularly and take the entire family.
You can also keep this good health habits in mind:
- Sun protection is important year-round, not just for the summer months.
- Because children are outside more than adults, their exposure to UV rays may be even greater.
- The cornea, the thin layer of skin over your eye, can be sunburned, resulting in pain and damage, and long-term, even cataracts.
- UV eye damage also is linked to conditions such as glaucoma, age-related macular degeneration, floaters, cancer of the eye, eyelid or eye area, wrinkles and premature aging.
- Bright light and glare can be distracting and dangerous to adults and children.
- Your best way to prevent sun damage to the eyes is to wear sunglasses. But not every pair will work. In general, cheap over-the-counter sunglasses or just tinted lenses won’t do the job. Look for sunwear that absorbs or reflects 99 to 100 percent of UV rays. And polarized are even better because they really reduce that annoying glare.
- If you or your teens wear contact lenses, you still need sunglasses. Most contact lenses have UV coating to protect your eyes from UV rays but they only cover part of your eyes.
- Other “sun” tips: Wear a wide-brimmed hat and avoid the sun during the hours of 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., the most dangerous time. Use a high SPF sunscreen.
- All kids’ eyewear should block 100 percent of UV rays and should be impact-resistant to help protect their eyes.
I recommend to all my patients that they wear UV-blocking sunwear as a matter of habit. This good habit can help protect your eyes and the eyes of your loved ones from sun damage now and in the future.
(Dr. Jaime Johnson is a licensed optometrist in the state of California and is employed as a Managing Doctor of Optometry with EYEXAM of California. She is a graduate of the U.C. Berkeley Optometry School)