Let's talk about UV light and what we can do to protect our eyes!
UV light is an invisible part of sunlight that can be absorbed by the body and cause damage, this includes damage to your eye! It is the same light known to cause sunburns and skin cancer.
Damage from UV light is:
· Irreversible - So once the damage is done, we cannot reverse it!
· Cumulative - This means the effects add up over time! Even direct exposure to UV light for short periods of time can cause damage.
· Occurs year round - You might only remember to wear your sunglasses in the summer time but it is just as important to protect your eyes in the winter! UV light can reflect off of snow, water, pavement, and sand increasing your risk for damage to occur.
It is estimated that at least 50% of our lifetime UV exposure happens before the age of 18! Young people are more vulnerable to UV exposure because they spend more time outdoors, have larger pupils, clearer lenses inside their eyes, and few wear sunglasses or hats. We unfortunately cannot go back in time and put sunglasses on people but we can teach our kids good habits to protect their eyes.
Prolonged UV light exposure can cause:
· Age related macular degeneration,
· Eyelid skin cancer,
· Corneal sunburn,
· Age spots,
· And tissue growths on the front of the eye.
All of the above conditions are screened for during a routine eye examination with your optometrist!
An emergency situation would be if you are experiencing symptoms of a corneal sunburn. Symptoms would include pain, redness, light sensitivity, and blurry vision after prolonged exposure to UV light. If this was to happen, first get out of the sun. Second, book in for an emergency eye exam to have your eyes evaluated. In Saskatchewan, front of the eye emergencies can be billed through a valid Saskatchewan Health Card.
So now you might be wondering, how can I keep my eyes safe?
· Sunglasses with 100% UV protection that block out both UVA and UVB rays. A wrap around style can provide the most protection.
· Wide-brimmed hats or baseball caps.
· Finding the shade when needed.
· And of course, staying hydrated!
Sunglasses can be prescription, non-prescription, Transitions (where they change colour from clear to tinted), or clip-ons... so tons of options are available!
Sunglasses are also great because they not only protect your eyes from the damaging effects of UV light but they allow you to show off your personality. It is a great opportunity to have some fun and show off your unique style!
Polarized lenses are also an excellent option because they decrease horizontal glare off of surfaces like water and wet roads. So, instead of seeing the reflection off of the water at the lake, you can actually see down into the water when you wear polarized lenses. If you are planning on spending a lot of time this summer at the lake, these are a must have!
If you are overwhelmed with all of the options do not fear, the optometrists and staff at the Kennedy Eye Clinic are here to guide you through choosing the best options available for your eyes!
I hope everyone has fun enjoying the sun and please remember to wear your sunnies!
- Dr. Anna Matiko