Protecting Your Eyes from the Florida Sun
As Floridians, we spend much of our time at the beach, in the pool and on tennis courts and golf courses. Throw in some outdoor walking, biking and gardening, and it’s easy to see why we need to be proactive in taking care of our bodies by wearing sunscreen and our eyes by wearing proper sunglasses, not to mention a well-brimmed hat or visor.
To understand why the proper sunglasses are so important, it’s important to know about ultra violet light (UV rays) which can cause major damage to your vision. UV-A rays can hurt your central vision by damaging the macula, a part of the retina at the back of your eye. And UV-B rays can damage the front part of your eye — the cornea and the lens — which absorbs most UV-B rays.
Over time, the effects of UV rays can cause a number of eye problems such as macular degeneration, cataracts, and pterygiums (growths which begin on the white of the eye and may later involve the cornea, potentially blocking vision). UV rays can also be responsible for skin cancers, corneal sunburns and conjunctival and corneal squamous lesions (pre-cancerous ocular tumors which can become malignant).
So… how can you help protect yourself from developing such eye diseases?
Choose the Right Sunglasses!
Use sunglasses that absorb UV rays and wear a brimmed hat or cap. A wide brimmed hat or cap will block about half of UV rays. A brimmed hat or cap can also limit UV rays that hit the eyes from above or around glasses.
Sunglasses that absorb UV rays give the most protection. All types of eyewear, including prescription and non-prescription glasses, contact lenses and lens implants, should absorb UV-A and UV-B rays. For UV protection in everyday eyewear, there are several options like UV-blocking lens materials, coatings and photochromic lenses. UV protection does not cost a lot of money and does not get in the way of seeing clearly.
Choose sunglasses that reduce glare, filter out 99-100% of UV rays, protect your eyes, are comfortable to wear (so you’ll wear them!) and do not distort colors.
Also, be aware that if you are at the beach or even on vacation on the ski slopes, you should wear sunglasses with a darker tint to block more light. Your risk of eye damage from the sun is greater because of reflection off the water and snow.
Finally, don’t be afraid to ask your eye doctor questions. Share the types of activities you are enjoying in the sun. It could make a difference in the eyewear suggested for your particular lifestyle. Your eye doctor will be able to help you choose glasses that are not only comfortable and fashionable, but more importantly, sunglasses that will protect your vision.
Extra Tips to Help Protect Your Vision
- Wear sunglasses on cloudy days. Even on overcast days, UV rays can still reach your eyes. Don’t be deceived by a cloudy day.
- Have a second pair on hand. You never know when your glasses will get lost or broken. Having a second pair just in case will keep you from being stranded without proper eye protection.
- Stay hydrated. It’s important to keep your eyes hydrated. Drink a minimum of 2 liters of water each day to prevent dehydrated eyes and skin.
- Avoid midday sun. Stay inside when possible especially in the late morning and afternoon when the sun and UV rays are at their strongest.
- Consider polarized lenses. Since they reduce glare from reflective surfaces, polarized lenses are great for water-based activities and driving.