Now that summer is here, we are well-trained to apply sunscreen every day to protect our skin. However, are we taking the same care to protect our eyes as well? Sun exposure can be very damaging to the eyes and can even cause temporary blindness. Sunburn of the eyes can damage the retina and lens, which eventually may lead to cataracts.
Symptoms of vision problems from sun exposure include (Source: Web MD):
- Decreased vision
- Burning pain
- Partial or complete vision loss
- Feeling that there is a foreign body in the eye
- Photophobia— extreme light sensitivity
Here are some tips for protecting your eyes this summer:
- Sunglasses are essential— Look for lenses with 100 percent UVA and UVB protection. This will help prevent burning the retina, cornea and fragile skin around the eyes. Some sunglasses and eye protection are made with EPF (eye protection factor) certified rating, which means that the frames offer protection as well as the lenses.
- Wear a hat— Hats can be fashionable and protect your eyes at the same time! Wide-brimmed hats offer the best protection to your entire head and sometimes even your shoulders. Remember that the most critical time to wear a hat is between the hours of 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. when the sun’s rays are the strongest. The sun is along the horizon between 8 a.m. and 10 a.m. and again between 2 p.m. and 4 p.m., which exposes the eyes to UV rays. Therefore, wearing a hat whenever you are outside is the best and safest choice.
- Keep eyes moist— Summer air, wind, air conditioning and allergies can dry out your eyes. Try blinking more frequently to keep eyes moist. If you still feel that your eyes are too dry, use some over-the-counter eye lubricant to help refresh your eyes.
- Eat eye-healthy foods— Filling your plate with nutrient-rich foods will provide your eyes with vitamins and minerals they need to stay healthy:
- Strawberries, oranges, papayas and green peppers are good sources of vitamin C.
- Sweet potatoes, carrots, peaches, squash and mangos provide beta-carotene.
- Meats like beef, pork, lamb, whole grains, eggs and milk are rich in zinc.
- Leafy greens, fish, nuts and fish oils provide much-needed omega 3 fatty acids.
A few simple steps can help preserve your vision. If you experience changes in your vision or have chronic eye pain, do not delay in calling your eye doctor (Source: Milwaukee Journal Sentinel).