It’s Time to Turn Our Attention to the Sunshine

By Eye Institute of Houston
July 15, 2019

Summer has officially arrived and that has many of us heading out into the sunshine more often. Thanks to years of Public Service Announcements, most people are well aware that UV safety is an important aspect of summertime fun. When you think of UV safety, does your mind immediately go to your eyes? We didn’t think so. Most people think of sunscreen and wide-brimmed hats as tools to protect their skin from the harmful rays of the sun. This is only part of the whole. For optimal protection, it’s also necessary to understand the effects that UV light can have on the eyes.

Ultraviolet Light and Eye Health

Sunshine contains intense UV rays, also called ultraviolet light. The various wavelengths of light in sunshine can degrade not only the skin but also the tissues in the eyes. UV light is considered a contributing factor for cataracts, macular degeneration, and even cancer of the eye. On a milder scale, it is possible for ultraviolet rays to cause a sunburn in ocular tissue. An eye sunburn can cause a dry or gritty feeling, light sensitivity, itching, and watering. Sunburn also increases the risk of serious eye conditions later in life.

Protecting the Eyes from UV Light

No one can stay indoors all the time. This is neither convenient nor healthy. Studies have shown that the body actually needs small doses of sunshine every day. The problem is, we can quickly get too much exposure. We may even get too much exposure without knowing it. For many years, sunglasses have been a vital accessory during the summer months. What needs to be understood is that sunglasses are not all made with equal protection from harmful wavelengths of light.

Sunglasses dim the visual field to the degree of the tint on lenses. The darker the visual field is made by sunglasses, the more the pupils will dilate to let light in. Herein lies an important detail: sunglasses need to filter UVA and UVB light to adequately protect long-term eyesight. If only one type of UV light is filtered, the other will be more concentrated.

Polarization is Not the Answer

For many years, there has been a misconception that polarized sunglass lenses are better. Well, they are. Compared to standard sunglasses, polarized lenses are better at reducing glare. Where we need glasses to perform, though, is in the filtering of light. Even if you purchase polarized sunglasses for yourself or your loved ones, it is crucial that lenses block UVA and UVB light.

At the Eye Institute of Houston, we provide thorough eye exams and assistance with a variety of eye conditions. To schedule an exam, call (713) 668-7337.

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