We don’t seem to get too many cloudy days around here. For the most part, both the locals and the travelers to our lovely island paradise understand that ultraviolet light is the norm. Sunny days are appealing, but they also present a risk of sun damage and skin cancer. To mitigate these risks, we have learned to apply broad-spectrum sunscreen products on the daily. But what about our eyes?
Did you know that ultraviolet light can cause sunburn on the cornea of the eye? If you’ve ever surfed on a sunny day, you may have experienced this first-hand. In addition to the pretty rare occurrence of a corneal sunburn, UV light has also been associated with an increased risk of cataracts as well as cancer around or in the eye. This is precisely why we have something called Ultraviolet Awareness Month, and why your Mililani ophthalmologist encourages annual eye exams.
Is it Really That Easy for Sun Damage to Affect the Eyes?
The eyes are vulnerable to a variety of factors, including exposure to sunlight and other UV light. It may not be that the eyes can’t handle any amount of exposure, but that damaging ultraviolet rays are inflicting their powerful energy on the eyes anytime we’re outdoors. Think of the ordinary times that you go outside without thinking to don a pair of shades. UV related eye damage may occur from details as simple as:
- Having light-colored eyes.
- A family history of eye disease such as cataracts or cancer.
- Having an occupation that requires a lot of outdoor time, especially during the midday hours.
- Frequently working or playing around water or sand without adequate eye protection.
- Spending any amount of time outdoors without sufficient sunglasses.
In case you didn’t catch it, we mentioned eye protection and sunglasses as a vital measure to avoid increased risks of potentially serious conditions. What does that mean, though? Is any pair of sunglasses good enough? Not really.
Sunglasses need to offer no less than 99% blockage of UV light. The more skin that is covered around the eyes, the better. Wider frames and frames that wrap around the face are ideal because they protect not only the ocular structure but also the skin on the eyelids and directly around the eyes. Depending on the extensiveness of outdoor time, it may also be worth it to invest in a good pair of polarized sunglasses. Polarized lenses reduce the intensity of glare from sunlight.
In addition to wearing quality sunglasses every day, even on the rare occasion of cloudiness, eye protection may be increased by wearing a hat and by not smoking. Many people are not aware that smoking exacerbates UV damage.
Take a step toward lifelong eye health. Call 808-625-5577 to schedule your routine eye exam.