How Much Sun Is Too Much?
Americans value their sense of sight, and it is a fact that UV exposure can cause serious, problematic vision issues. The simple solution to keeping healthy vision is constant use of UV-protection - no matter the season, location, or activity. Sunglasses and other protective eyewear can prevent issues before they start and help to mitigate future eye damage for both adults and children. You can access the report, The Big Picture: Eye Protection is Always in Season here.
Solar radiation becomes a problem when adults and children spend extended, unprotected periods of time outdoors. UV damage is cumulative, which means daily sun exposure adds up over time and may lead to serious medical issues and vision impairment. While limiting time outdoors can reduce that risk, it's often not a feasible option. Individuals can decrease their exposure however by taking extra precautions during 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. - the hours at which the sun is closest to the Earth and UV radiation is most intense. If the average U.S. adult spent just 30 less minutes outside each day, their eyes would gain nearly 15,000 hours of UV free time.
A growing number of adults are showing concern over cosmetic issues like premature aging of skin, particularly around the eyes. Physical changes to this area of skin can result from both UV exposure and squinting. Wrinkles, sun spots and abnormal growths on the eye and eyelid are attributable to sun exposure and can manifest as early as an individual's twenties or thirties. The best line of defense is to wear UV protective eyewear - every day.
Beyond the surface, UV exposure can also lead to serious, debilitating vision problems. UVA and UVB rays reach the Earth's surface in one of three ways: directly from the sun, scattered through the open sky, or reflected off surrounding environments. Once UV rays pass through the atmosphere, our bodies and eyes are immediately exposed to them.
UV rays that reach the eye are primarily absorbed by the cornea, which is the front, transparent surface of the eye. This impact can lead to serious and in some cases long term health issues like photokeratitis, pterygium, cataracts, macular degeneration and even cancer of the eye, eyelid or surrounding skin. Sunglasses and other UV-protective eyewear block UV radiation and protect vital parts of the eye such as the cornea. Most contact lenses are manufactured with UV coatings that protect the eyes from UV rays, however, since contact lenses do not cover the entire eyeball, sunwear and eye protection is still necessary. For glasses wearers, prescription-strength UV protective lenses -- with or without the grey or other tint colors associated with sun glasses -- are widely available in various price ranges and styles.
Frequent use of sunglasses and other UV-protective eyewear can thwart UV radiation's impact on eyes and reduce the risk of these problems. Wrap-around sunglasses are a great option for young children and older adults because they block both horizontal and vertical UV from reaching the cornea.
UV Protection for Your Eyes Infographic
Learn additional UV safety facts by taking a look at the below infographic. You can also download it as a pdf here.
To see a larger image, click the infographic or click here.
Keep Your Child's Eyes in Sight
Children spend a majority of their time in the summer outside and are therefore more susceptible to harmful UV rays. "Millions of parents are putting their children's vision at risk," said Susan Taub, M.D., F.A.C.S., of the Taub Eye Clinic in Chicago, IL. "The sun can do as much damage to your eyes as it can to your skin. This is especially true for children, whose risk is higher because the lens in their eye doesn't block as much UV rays and because they spend so much time outside." Learn more here.
*All content on this page has been approved by The Better Vision Institute – the medical advisory panel of The Vision Council.