How Arizona’s 300+ Days of Sunshine Affects Your Eyes

Arizona’s sweltering heat and 300+ days of sunshine can take a toll on your eyes. From dryness and irritation to potential blindness, understanding how the weather impacts your eyes can help preserve your vision.

Today, Arizona Retinal Specialists will discuss how ultraviolet (UV) exposure, low humidity, and blazing temperatures strain the eyes’ delicate tissues. You’ll become better acquainted with the harmful effects of UV radiation and receive tips on how to protect your eyes from the sun while enjoying Arizona’s breathtaking landscape. With some practical solutions, you’ll be ready to face another sunny day and continue to take in the sights of the Grand Canyon State.

 

How Arizona’s Climate Affects Your Eyes

Here’s how the Valley of the Sun’s environment can affect your vision and ocular health:

 

Dryness and Irritation

Phoenix, Arizona’s hot, arid climate can dry out and irritate your eyes. The lack of humidity causes moisture to evaporate from your eyes, leading to symptoms like stinging, burning, and grittiness. Over-the-counter drops formulated for dry eyes can help relieve discomfort by lubricating and hydrating your eyes.

Further reading: Dry Eye Syndrome Relief in Arizona

 

Sunburned Eyes

Arizona’s intense sunlight contains high amounts of UV radiation, which can sunburn your eyes. Staying indoors during peak sunlight hours and wearing sunglasses that shield against UVA and UVB rays can help prevent sunburned eyes.

 

Allergies

The desert winds frequently kick up dust, sand, and other airborne particles that can infiltrate and irritate your eyes. Rinsing your eyes with clean water can provide quick relief. Eye drops and oral antihistamines can also reduce inflammation and excessive tearing. For added protection, wear glasses to prevent foreign particles from entering your eyes, especially on windy days in the desert regions.

 

 Cataracts

Cataracts, which appear as cloudy areas in the lens of the eye, are responsible for 50% of blindness worldwide. While advancing age is the primary cause of cataract formation, constant overexposure to ultraviolet radiation may also contribute to their development.

Research demonstrates that those who spend more time in unprotected sunlight are more likely to develop cataracts. To mitigate the risks, experts recommend wearing sunglasses that block 100% of UV rays. Wearing a wide-brimmed hat also provides added protection by blocking some of the harmful rays from reaching the eye area.

Do you have a cataract? Whether it’s because of aging or as a complication of diabetes mellitus, expand your understanding of this common eye disease by learning about the misconceptions and what happens before, during, and after cataract surgery.

 

Conjunctivitis

Conjunctivitis, commonly known as pink eye, is a contagious inflammation of the conjunctiva – the transparent membrane covering the sclera. Hot weather can cause conjunctivitis by creating an environment conducive to bacterial and viral growth. Symptoms include redness, itching, and discharge in one or both eyes. If you experience these symptoms, refrain from touching your eyes and seek medical treatment. Your eye doctor may prescribe a topical antibiotic to address bacterial conjunctivitis, while artificial tears, cold compresses, and antihistamines can relieve symptoms of viral conjunctivitis. If pink eye persists or worsens after a week or two, book a follow-up visit with your doctor.

 

Eyelid Cancer

Excessive exposure to the sun’s UV rays is a risk factor for eyelid cancers. Arizona has some of the highest UV index levels in the U.S. due to its arid climate and higher altitude, making skin cancers a concern for residents and visitors alike.

Eyelid skin is particularly vulnerable to UV damage and cancer due to its thin and transparent nature. The eyelids have little fatty tissue and melanin pigment to absorb or reflect UV rays, so they transmit most of the sun’s radiation directly to the skin cells. Over time, this accumulated UV exposure can lead to genetic mutations, potentially causing cancerous growths.

 

How to Protect Your Eyes From the Sun’s Damaging Effects

Before you head outdoors and enjoy the sights of sunny Arizona, remember to:

  • Wear UV-blocking sunglasses: UV radiation from the sun can damage the cornea and the lens of the eye, causing cloudiness and cataracts. Sunglasses that obstruct and filter out both UVA and UVB rays can help reduce eye damage.
  • Wear a hat to block sunlight and shade your eyes: A wide-brimmed hat shades the eyes from direct sunlight, which helps prevent UV exposure, reduces glare, and decreases the risk of age-related macular degeneration and cataracts.
  • Drink water throughout the day: The eyes need a continuous supply of moisture to stay lubricated and hydrated. Water helps produce tears, which contain proteins, oils, and mucus that work together to keep the surface of the eye moist, lubricated, and protected against irritants. On the other hand, dehydration can cause and worsen dry, irritated eyes.
  • Use eye drops formulated for dry eyes: Medicated drops for dry eyes contain ingredients like hyaluronic acid and glycerin, which support moisture replenishment between blinks. They work to retain natural lubrication and relieve symptoms of dryness, itching, and irritation.
  • Never look directly at the sun (for obvious reasons): Staring at the sun can damage the light-sensitive cells in your retina, especially the macula, which is responsible for central vision. Even brief glimpses can cause retinal burns, which can lead to severe and permanent damage to your eyesight.
  • Limit the time you spend outside in direct sunlight: The longer a person is out in the sun, especially without protection, the higher the risk of vision-impairing conditions and other diseases.
  • Schedule regular eye tests: The American Optometric Association (AO) recommends annual comprehensive eye exams to optimize visual function. Individuals over 60 and/or with medical conditions like diabetes should schedule eye exams more frequently or as an eye doctor advises.

 

Contact Arizona Retinal Specialists at 623-474-3937 if you need a retinal specialists in Sun City, AZ. Eye check-ups are so much more than reviewing your prescription. During your exam, we will evaluate your overall ocular health, ensuring to check for signs of disease and other issues. Remember, early detection and care are crucial to preventing permanent vision loss. Do not risk a future devoid of seeing your loved ones and their beautiful smiles.

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