We all know that applying sunscreen to the skin before sun exposure is essential. Overexposure to harmful UV rays can damage our skin and is linked to skin cancer. But, what about sun protection for the eyes? We often neglect to protect our eyes from these same rays, resulting in vision problems later in life.
Excessive exposure to UV radiation, even for a brief period, can lead to inflammation in the cornea. This inflammation is basically a ‘sunburn’ of the eye; and sufferers may experience symptoms such as red eyes, a gritty feeling in the eye, pain, sensitivity to light, and an increase in tears. These symptoms while unpleasant are also usually temporary, but a few bad cases of ‘sunburn’ to the eyes could lead to more serious complications later in life.
Long-term, unprotected exposure to the sun can result in an increased risk of more permanent sun damage to the eye and conditions like cataracts, long-term retinal damage, Pterygia (visible growths on the eye) and macular degeneration.
UV protection for our eyes is essential to maintain your vision and keeping your eyes healthy. South Africans experience harsh weather all year round, making it especially important to invest in sunglasses with UV protection. For those who don’t wear corrective lenses with sun protection, sunglasses are the best way to protect the eyes from the sun. But, it is important to invest in a good pair of sunglasses with a UV protective coating or polarised sunglasses. The UV coating on inexpensive sunglasses can wear off after time, so make sure you invest in an well-known brand with a good reputation to ensure your eyes have sufficient protection.
Those who wear contact lenses will also still need to wear sunglasses. While your contact lenses should block UV rays, these lenses will only shield the part of your eye under the lens. UV rays still can damage your eyelids and other tissue not covered by the lens. Wearing sunglasses protects this delicate tissue and the skin around your eyes from UV damage.
Invest in a pair of sunglasses that block 100 percent UV when you are outdoors. Depending on your lifestyle, you also may want to consider investing in a second pair of performance sunglasses or sport sunglasses if you lead an active outdoor lifestyle. Don’t forget, your eyes need protection even on cloudy days and when you’re in the shade. The sun’s damaging UV rays can penetrate cloud cover and although shade reduces your UV and HEV exposure to some degree, your eyes will still be exposed to UV rays reflected from buildings, roadways and other surfaces.
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