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Many people know the dangers that exposure to sunlight can pose to the skin, but did you know it can also severely damage your eyes?

Here comes the sun! Get outside, but be sure to protect your eyes

Written by Shaista Vally, OD, an optometrist at UK Advanced Eye Care.

Dr. Shaista Vally

Dr. Shaista Vally

The weather is warming up, and sunshine, swimming and the great outdoors are on everyone’s mind. While there is a lot of fun to be had in the summer, we must also consider how to adequately protect our eyes and skin, which can be damaged by prolonged exposure to sunlight.

Wear sunglasses with UV protection

Exposure to the sun’s ultraviolet A (UVA) and ultraviolet B (UVB) radiation can cause sunburns and in some cases lead to cancer. UV radiation can also be a catalyst for cataracts, an eye condition marked by blurred vision. The best way to keep your eyes safe in the sun is to wear sunglasses with UV protection that prevent UV rays from entering the eye.

The American National Standards Institute (ANSI) determines the safety of ophthalmic sunglasses and verifies that they can prevent ultraviolet radiation from damaging the eye. Look for the “ANSI” symbol and “UV protection” when purchasing sunglasses. Keep in mind that cheaper shades are more affordable and trendy, but they may not offer you any protection from ultraviolet radiation.

In fact, wearing sunglasses without protection from ultraviolet radiation can actually do more harm than wearing nothing at all. When you wear nothing over your eyes, your tendency is to squint or keep your eyes closed, and the brightness naturally makes your pupils constrict, allowing fewer harmful rays to enter your eye. But your eyes dilate slightly when you wear tinted lenses, which lets more harmful rays enter your eye.

Apply sunscreen around your eyes

Additionally, the eyelid and eyebrow region is especially susceptible to basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma and melanoma, which make up 5 to 10 percent of all skin cancers. Because the skin around the eye is very thin and contains very little subcutaneous tissue, it makes it easier for tumors to spread to nearby nasal and orbital cavities. Sunscreen with SPF is a simple way to prevent damage to the skin, but people often overlook applying sunscreen to their eyelids and area around their eyes as it often irritates their skin.

Buying facial lotions formulated for sensitive skin and applying a small amount with your eyes closed can prevent it from burning. Some people find that applying their daily facial cream first and allowing it to dry before applying SPF lotion helps prevent sunscreen irritation.

Get out there and enjoy the sunshine, but don’t forget to apply SPF sunscreen around your eyes and wear some UV-protected sunglasses!


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