Summer is here, which means the sun is shining bright in Austin, Texas. We wanted to take the opportunity to address an important topic for every individual: protecting your eyes from sun damage.
How the Sun Can Damage Your Eyes
Most of us know to wear sunscreen when we are swimming or staying outside for a long period of time. We understand that too much direct sunlight can hurt our skin, so we take the necessary measures to protect it.
Similarly, we need to take the necessary precautions to protect our eyes from the sun.
Ultraviolet (UV) rays can lead to oxidative stress in our eyes. Oxidative stress has been implicated both in cataract formation and in macular degeneration, a leading cause of vision loss in the United States.
Depending on where you live, you can be at greater or lesser risk of eye damage from the sun. The farther you are from the equator, the smaller your risk of eye damage. Additionally, the lower the altitude, the safer you are from harmful UV rays. Summers in Austin typically result in high to extreme levels of UV rays. Check this resource to see Austin’s current UV report.
There are two types of UV rays: UV-A and UV-B.
UV-A rays are most damaging to the macula, the part of the retina that is responsible for central vision.
UV-B rays are most damaging to the front part of your eye (the cornea and the lens).
Besides macular degeneration and cataracts, exposure to UV rays can result in conjunctival growths called pterygiums. These begin on the conjunctiva, the white of the eye, and, in some cases, will expand to involve the cornea as well. Pterygiums can cause irritation and affect vision. They are most common in people who work outdoors and are exposed to the sun and wind.
Exposure to UV rays can also lead to corneal sunburn, also known as photokeratitis. Long hours at the beach without proper eye protection can lead to this condition. It can be very painful and may be associated with temporary vision loss.
Choosing the Right Sunglasses
Sunglasses protect your eyes by shielding them from harmful UV rays. While it’s fine to look for a stylish pair of sunglasses, your number one priority should be to make sure you choose sunglasses with 99%-100% protection from UV rays. Additionally, select a pair of shades that blocks anywhere from 75%-90% of visible light. Sunglasses that extend to block UV rays coming from the side and behind provide the best protection for your eyes.
Protecting your eyes isn’t just for adults; it’s for the whole family. If you have children, it’s important to protect their eyes from the sun as well. Children’s eyes are less developed than adults’, making their eyes more vulnerable to sun damage. Help your children take care of their eyes by building the healthy habit of putting on sunglasses before going outside to play.
At Broberg Eye Care, we have a wide selection of prescription and non-prescription sunglasses that will protect your eyes from harmful UV rays. Give us a call at (512)447-6096 or fill out our contact form to schedule an appointment today.