5 Ways To Protect Your Eyes From UV Rays This Summer

Dr. Mai-Vy Hoang 07/24/2017

young-woman-red-hair-hat-sun-uv.jpgNow that the warm weather has arrived, most people will be spending a lot of time outdoors. Though there is plenty of fun to be had outside, there is also the potential for the sun's UV light to damage your eyes.

Summer is the most popular season to spend time outdoors, and increased exposure to sunlight can increase your risk of developing cataracts and other serious eye issues. With July being UV Safety Awareness Month, it's a good time to look at ways in which you can protect your eyes this summer.

The Danger Of UV Light 

The sun shines three types of UV light. The ozone layer blocks all of the high-energy UVC light before it reaches our sensitive eyes. UVB is the next strongest UV light. This light is a serious threat to the eyes, yet it is partially absorbed. UVA can damage the deep tissue within the eyes.

How UV Light Affects The Eyes

Unfortunately, UVA is not blocked out by the atmosphere.

Senior citizens are particularly vulnerable to the sun as UV light can induce cataracts. In turn, cataracts can cause vision loss. Age-related macular degeneration is the top cause of blindness in senior citizens. This condition might be connected to exposure to the sun without the necessary eye protection. 

5 Ways You Can Protect your Eyes

There are several ways you can protect your eyes from harmful UV rays. Here are the most effective.

young-man-putting-on-sunglasses-brick-wall-backdrop1. Wear Sunglasses With A High UV Rating

The best way you can protect yourself from harmful sun rays is by wearing UV-blocking sunglasses. Studies show that almost half of all people buy sunglasses without checking the UV rating and doing so may mean that you'll purchase a pair without adequate protection. In fact, most people purchase sunglasses with only style and comfort in mind.

The American Academy of Ophthalmology recommends that you wear sunglasses that are labeled with 100% UV protection because they'll block both UVA and UVB rays. The AAO also recommends that you choose wraparound style glasses that protect you from sunlight that can enter from the side. Also, you'll still need sunglasses even if you're wearing UV-blocking contact lenses.

When shopping for sunglasses, opt for lenses that block between 99 and 100 percent of UVA and UVB. Or, opt for a pair of sunglasses with a UV400 rating. Anything below these three levels of protection will prove insufficient against the sun's wrath. It is imperative that you protect your eyes with a pair of high-quality sunglasses. Optometrists even recommend wearing sunglasses outside when there are overcast skies.

When it comes to lens color and tint, choose whatever suits your fancy. These two factors are not meaningful when it comes to UV protection. Gradient lenses are ideal as they guard the eyes from the sun above thanks to their dark top portion. This style of lens is lighter on the bottom so it is easy to read and see things such as a smartphone or book. 

Another key piece to the eye protection puzzle is polarized lenses. This type of lens has a special filter to decrease glare from surfaces that reflect light. Everything from the street surface to bodies of water bounce light back to the human eye. Though polarized lenses will not safeguard the eye from any more UV light than non-polarized lenses, they will minimize that pesky glare to make your eyes feel as comfortable as possible.

2. Wear A Hat

Hats can shield your eyes from sunlight, preventing cataracts and eye damage. Your hat should have a brim of at least 3 inches to sufficiently cover your eyes. Not all hats are the same, but any type with a wide enough brim will offer some protection.

Wearing a hat with your sunglasses will provide additional protection against harmful UV rays. Wide-brimmed hats are best. Experts strongly advise that you wear a hat during visits to the beach and amusement park, and on boat rides and while biking - but also any place where you'll get prolonged sun exposure.

3. Protect your eyes while you drive

Many people assume that, because they're inside their vehicle, they are protected from UV rays. However, this is not always the case. Depending on the position of the sun and the direction you're driving, you could be exposed to a significant amount of UV rays.

The best way to keep your eyes safe while you drive is to wear sunglasses. Even if you aren't driving, you should always wear sunglasses inside a vehicle to prevent eye damage.

4. Consider the weather and time of day

Being outside during the midday, when sunlight is strongest, is not good for your skin and it's not good for your eyes either because of increased UV rays. Remaining indoors between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. in the summer is the best way to reduce exposure to UV rays. If you're at the beach, remember that UV rays can reflect off the water and increase in intensity.

5. Keep your kids protected

One survey showed that parents are far more likely to wear sunglasses than their children. But protecting your child's eyesight is of extreme importance because his or her eyes transmit more UV rays to the retina than adult eyes, which increases their risk of eye damage later in life.

Want to learn more about how UV exposure affects the eyes? Download our free infographic below.

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