This is what the sun does to your eyes:
1. The skin around the eyes, in particular the eyelids, is made up of a very thin tissue. Over time, repeated UV exposure can lead to wrinkles, age spots, and small skin cancers. 10% of all skin cancers occur on the eyelids!
2. Sun damage can cause a condition called pinguecula, a thickening of the clear thin membrane that covers the white of the eye. This causes raised bumps on the eye, near the cornea, which can become irritated and inflamed. If this thickens and grows over the cornea, it's called pterygium which obscures vision in that eye.
3. The macula is the part of the retina where we have straight ahead vision and detailed vision. That macula can start to deteriorate, leading to macular degeneration, which causes permanent loss of central and detailed vision. UV light and high energy blue light contribute to this condition.
4. Blue eyed people are more susceptible to macular degeneration and especially need to wear sunglasses to protect the retina.
5. Behind the pupil of the eye is the crystalline lens which focuses light on the retina. When the lens becomes clouded, the resulting condition is cataracts. Exposure to UV contributes to the development of cataracts. Wearing sunglasses and a hat slows the process.
6. A common summertime scenario is a day at the lake or the beach. On the drive home your eyes feel kind of gritty. By 10 pm they're in agony and on the way to the emergency room with a sunburned cornea. This can cause tremendous pain and temporarily blur your vision, and it takes a while to heal.
Here's how to protect your eyes:
1. A good pair of sunglasses is your best defense. Look for sun lenses that say they block 99 to 100% of UV, or that say UV400, which means the lenses block wavelengths shorter than 400, which includes all UVA and UVB rays. If the label says something more vague, like "Absorbs UV", put them back on the shelf.
2. Many people prefer polarized sunlenses. They block the same UV with the added advantage of cutting the glare from horizontal surfaces, such as pavement, water, wet grass, cement (just about anything horizontal that reflects light). Polarized lenses allow for crisper, clearer vision, particularly while driving or on the water.
3. Lens color is really a matter of preference and makes no difference in UV protection. However, the brown shades do filter some of the blue light, which gives you a little more contrast and intensifies the greens. Golfers often prefer the brown shades. Gray keeps things in their natural colors. Green is a very comfortable, soothing color that is easy on the eye. There are even specific polarized tints for specific sports, like violet, ruby and blue.
4. Good sunglass lenses are made from the same materials as prescription lenses. Cheaper lenses are made from pressed plastic which has distortions. Ask for optically ground lenses! Go to an actual optical shop or optometrist's office for the best advice and best quality lenses.
5. For maximum coverage, large frames are the best. They shield more of the delicate eye area from UV and also allow less UV to sneak around the lens and into the eyes. Also larger, closer fitting sunglasses help cut down on tear evaporation if you tend to have dryer eyes.
6. Wear a hat!
Embrace these beautiful summer months, protect your eyes and your skin, and go out and have FUN!!