July is UV Safety Month and a time when many health organizations are spreading awareness about your safety around the sun. The sun provides vital vitamins you need (like vitamin D) and it helps nourish the planet so plants can grow. However, too much exposure to ultraviolet rays from the sun leads to skin cancers, eye cancer and blindness without UV protection. Here is what you need to know about the sun’s UV rays and how you can protect your eyes and body from UV damage!
Have you ever basked in the light’s warm rays? This is a favorite pastime for many people during the summer. However, many people don’t realize that they are causing themselves not only a very high risk of skin cancer, but also vision problems by staying in the sun. The sun’s rays provide you warmth, but they also send radiation to your body direction through space.
Ultraviolet (UV rays) are light rays on the visible light spectrum. That is the spectrum of light that can be seen with the naked eye, such as the rainbow of colors you are used to seeing. UV light is on the part of the spectrum where there is lots of energy and short wavelengths, but UV light is not visible. It carries a very small light wave that hits your skin of eyes, but that wave carries tons of energy compared to other colors of light. The color of the light wave is what determines how much energy it carries and how dangerous it is to your body. Visible light won’t hurt youg. UV light can.
The only problem with UV lights is that they can’t generally be seen by the naked eye despite being on the visible light spectrum. Because UV light is so hard to see, your skin or eyes will slowly become burned without sunscreen and sunglasses protecting you. Too much exposure to the skin—no matter the color—will lead to skin cancer. That’s even with using sunscreen if it’s not applied enough or correctly. Too much exposure to the eyes will lead to vision loss over time that can be gradual or quick blindness.
Light ranges from red, orange, yellow, green and then to blue, indigo and violet light waves. Once it starts moving towards the blue end, your eye stops being able to see those colors. You may hear the term “UV light” used often, even though this term is incorrect. Ultraviolet radiation is known as “UV rays” because it is a radiation lightwave, instead of light that your eye can see. There are three types of this wave that carries energy to earth, which is the energy that can harm eye tissues:
When you stay outside too long without sunscreen, you get a sunburn. The same happens to your eyes, because your body’s cells get damaged by energy waves from the sun, leaving a burn on the skin or eye cells. You have to wear sunglasses or sport glasses (in spring, summer, winter, etc.) or you end up with sunburns on the eyes from looking directly at the sun or from sunlight reflecting off surfaces into your eyes.
Long-term UV damage is known to be a risk factor for many eye diseases such as macular degeneration, cataracts, blindness and more. If you already have an eye issue, not wearing proper protection can make your condition worse. When you have sustained a sunburn to your eyes, you may experience photokeratitis, which is a sunburn on the eyes. Patients experience vision loss (maybe for an entire day), bloodshot eyes, painful eyes, red and gritty eyes, dry eyes, halos in their vision and pain around the eyes. UV damage is no joke when it comes to your eyes!
Want to keep your vision for as long as possible? What about avoiding all cancers of the skin as much as possible, plus eye cancers caused by the UV radiation? Then cover up! Wear sunscreen every single day (even in the winter) to protect against UV radiation. There are many lightweight sunscreens that feel like lotions that can protect your skin without feeling heavy. Over time, your skin can stay young without having the cells become damaged from UV radiation.
Makeup, medications, creams and more come with built-in sunscreens, so look for these types of products. For your eyes, get professional sunglasses (not cheap dollar store brands) that block 100% of UVA and UVB rays. Invest in a sturdy pair of sunglasses from a professional eye doctor that can custom-make lenses fit to your face. If you play sports, these can be customized to shade all those areas around the eyes that generic glasses leave wide open.
Custom sunglasses will block the lens of your eyes from harsh sunlight. They can protect against sun glare and exposure to all harmful UV rays associated with macular degeneration and cataracts. These types of glasses can be made for children too, so don’t wait!
We recommend that everyone receive an eye exam at least every two years per the recommendation of the American Optometric Association. For patients with common or complex eye conditions, they should receive an eye exam each year. This is a time to learn more about your eyes and one of the best ways to ensure your eyes are healthy. To schedule your appointment or to learn more about protecting your eyes in winter, call Peepers Optical at 303-333-2800!