With longer days and warmer weather, the summer months beckon us outside to enjoy picnics, pools, and parks.
Most people know to protect their skin from the sun’s damaging rays by slathering on the sunscreen. Many may not realize the same UV radiation can also harm the eyes year-round.
Wednesday, June 27th is National Sunglasses Day, which celebrates the importance of protective eyewear. Be sure to look for a label, sticker or tag indicating UV protection before purchasing a new pair of sunnies.
UV-A and UV-B radiation can have long- and short-term negative effects on the eyes and vision, according to the American Optometric Association. Even a short period of excessive UV radiation is likely to cause photokeratitis. Like a “sunburn of the eye,” photokeratitis can be painful, causing red eyes, a gritty feeling in the eyes, extreme sensitivity to light and excessive tearing, according to the AOA.
Fortunately, these symptoms are usually temporary and rarely cause permanent damage to the eyes. It’s not clear how much solar radiation exposure will cause damage, but the more exposure to solar radiation, the greater the risk of developing cataracts or macular degeneration later in life.
Miami (#3), Tampa (#4) and Jacksonville (#8) rank within the top 25 U.S. cities receiving the highest levels of UV exposure, according to The Vision Council. You can find your local risk for UV overexposure from the EPA’s UV Index tool, which also has recommendations for sun protection and planning outdoor activities.
Like skin, eyes can accumulate damaging UV radiation on cloudy or cold days, so it’s important to wear UV protective sunglasses whenever spending time outside. Children are especially vulnerable to solar radiation, as their eyes are not mature enough to filter out harmful UV light. Children’s sunglasses should be rated for UV protection, though many are not.
Help spread awareness of UV protection for the eyes by posting a #SunglassSelfie on June 27th.
About the Author: Laura Hampson
Laura Hampson is a Professional Education Coordinator here at Suwannee River AHEC.