The Grand Canyon State is perhaps one of the sunniest locales in the United States. In fact, Valley residents experience about 4,000 hours of sunshine yearly. While basking in the sun reminds us of fun summer times, it brings a lot of ultraviolet rays that could potentially harm your eyes and skin. You can seek refuge in the shade and use sunscreen to protect your skin, but how do you shield your vision?
Don’t forget your eye health. The sun can damage your peepers and it can even cause vision loss. Read on to learn about how the sun affects your eyesight and how you can stay stylish and worry-free while enjoying the outdoors.
Sun Exposure And Your Eyes
Most of us enjoy outdoor activities. From hiking to swimming at the beach, being exposed to the sun raises our endorphin levels and keeps us in a happier state of mind. In addition, sunlight helps stimulate the body’s production of vitamin D. This essential nutrient is required for the absorption of calcium by the body. It’s also important for growth and muscle strength.
Sunshine can also be good for your eyes. In a study, strong correlations were seen between a person’s exposure to sunlight and eyesight. Those who had gotten the most sun, specifically between the ages of 14 and 19, were about 25 percent less likely to develop nearsightedness (myopia) by middle age.
UV and HEV Radiation
Problems start because of too much exposure. The UV radiation is part of the electromagnetic spectrum that reaches the earth from the sun. While we can’t see them, we should never ignore them. To understand how the sun can be bad for your eyes, we need to discuss the four categories of solar radiation it releases:
1. UVA Rays – UVB and UVC may have more energy than UVA radiation, but these harmful rays have the highest chance of penetrating the ozone layer and directly affecting your eyes. In fact, they account for 95% of UV radiation that reaches the earth and can penetrate clouds and glass. UVA rays increase your risk of developing eye disorders like macular degeneration and cataracts. They also play a major part in skin aging and wrinkling.
2. UVB Rays – The ozone layer partially filters UVB rays, but they can still reach the earth’s surface. UVB intensity varies by season and time of day. Suntan and sunburn are the results of UVB radiation stimulating the melanin component of your skin. It can burn unprotected skin in as little as 15 minutes. It can also lead to other problems like lumps on eyelids. But perhaps the most serious damage it can cause is skin cancer.
3. UVC Rays – Also known as the shortest of all UV rays, UVC harbors the highest energy and potential harm. It can also be found in man-made sources like welding torch3ees and mercury lamps. Fortunately, the ozone layer absorbs most UVC rays. Let’s hope it stays that way.
4. HEV Rays – Also called blue light, HEV rays have lower energy but longer wavelengths than UV rays. Those with low blood plasma levels and vitamin C are at risk of macular degeneration with too much HEV exposure. Retinal damage is also something to watch out for.
Not that the risks of eye damage from any of these radiations vary depending on several factors – the time of day, altitude, geographic location, and even medications you take. Be sure to check with your doctor and discuss your risk.
Serious Eye Disorders Caused By Solar Radiation
All types of solar radiation have the potential to damage your eyes. Their effects are cumulative and depend on the length of time spent in the sun. For example, farmers are more susceptible to eye diseases like cataracts at a younger age than office workers.
1. Macular Degeneration
The top reason for vision loss (more than glaucoma and cataracts combines) is macular degeneration. It is currently an incurable disease that leaves a person with blurred or no vision at all in the center of their field of vision. Long term UV radiation exposure is linked with this disease, and UVA is responsible for most damage to the macula.
- Keratitis – Excessive UV exposure from tanning beds and the sun can literally burn your corneas. Severe eye redness is a telltale sign of keratitis. See your eye doctor immediately.
- Conjunctival cancers – Patients with atypical moles are at high risk for conjunctival melanomas. Be sure to have yearly ophthalmologic tests.
UV rays are one of the leading causes of cataracts, a gradual clouding of the lens of the eye that can destroy eyesight. Surgery is an option to remove cataracts, but it’s still better to avoid prolonged sun exposure.
3. Eyelid Cancers
The eyelid skin is fragile and thin, yet it is often overlooked as an area that needs protection. UV light can lead to eyelid cancers, so be sure to use sunglasses outside.
Eye Protection From Sun Damage
Protecting your eyes from the sun is simple. Here’s what you can do to always be prepared for any outdoor adventure:
1. Wide-brimmed hat – Any hat style will usually keep out some of the sun, but those with wide brims (at least three inches) can shield your eyes better.
2. Sunglasses – Who says you can’t be stylish while taking care of your eyes? Sunglasses are a cool accessory to wear and hands down the best protection for your eyes. Make sure to choose one that blocks 100 percent of UV rays.
3. Sunscreen – The area around your eyes also need some TLC. Seek out a quality sunscreen with SPF15+ that’s made for the sensitive skin. Don’t be afraid to use some on the eyelids, as long as you apply the product carefully.
In Arizona, with our high levels of UV radiation, we need to pay special attention to our eyes. Even on cloudy days, these harmful rays can reach our eyes so be sure to wear your sunglasses. For concerns about your eye health, consult with our experts at Arizona Retinal Specialists. Give us a call today at (623) 474-3837 (EYES) for your questions.