Summer has been a long time coming here, with many false starts, heat waves sandwiched between rain clouds and all the things we expect in Ireland.
It finally did and, as always, we are ill-prepared.
For our faces, arms and legs, we will have left behind last year’s sunscreen and hastily bought new creams to protect and save our skin from aging and disease.
But what about our eyes? Our eyes can be damaged by UV rays just like our skin.
Strong sunlight and UV affect the eye in many ways, causing cataracts and macular degeneration, as well as non-cancerous growths on the front surface of the eye like pinguecula and pterygium.
Our eyelids have the thinnest skin in the whole body.
UV damage can cause wrinkles, dryness and pigmentation, and 5-10% of all skin cancers occur around the eyes.
In short, a long list of ailments caused by the sun that we so crave.
So how can we be prepared?
Avoiding the sun when it is at its peak can be difficult in a country that rarely sees it, but on hot days or abroad we should stay indoors between 11am and 3pm.
Wearing a wide-brimmed hat is the next line of defense, especially during these hours, but most importantly are your sunglasses.
Sunglasses are the best defense for your eyes, but what kind of sunglasses are the best?
When choosing, you should always look for a UV index of UV400. Sunglasses that don’t provide this level of UV protection to the eye actually cause damage by allowing the pupil to dilate and letting in more harmful light.
An anti-reflective coating on the back surface of the lens also prevents UV light from being reflected back into the eye.
In addition, a larger frame, or possibly a wraparound frame, protects the eyelids and surrounding tissues from the risk of skin damage.
Although polarized lenses don’t provide additional UV protection, they do protect against glare by reducing scattered light that can cause fatigue and discomfort.
As an optometrist, I see the results of UV damage to the eyes and surrounding skin daily. I find myself wearing sunglasses all year round, to protect myself from preventable damage. I think sun protection is a necessity, not an option.
Ask your local optometrist which sunglasses are best for you.
Stephen Olwell FAOI
10 Grafton Court
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