How to protect your eyes from the sun

Prolonged exposure to bright sunlight can cause discomfort, strain and even damage to your eyes. This can negatively impact your daily activities and overall well-being. Taking precautions like wearing sunglasses with UV protection, and hats and staying hydrated serves as a deterrent against harmful rays, reducing the risk of damaging your eyes. Discover more as Bloom Financial Services explains how to protect your eyes from the sun. Whether you’re engaging in work activities, sports, or enjoying the beach on a sunny day, sun protection should be an essential aspect of your daily eye care routine, which will ensure long-term ocular health and overall visual quality.

The importance of protecting your eyes from the sun

Ultraviolet (UV) rays are electromagnetic radiation emitted by the sun. They have shorter wavelengths than visible light but are longer than X-rays. UV radiation is categorized into UVA, UVB, and UVC based on the wavelength. While the Earth’s atmosphere filters out most of the UVC, both UVA and UVB rays do reach the earth’s surface. Prolonged exposure to these rays can be harmful, causing damage to your skin and eyes, which is the reason why you need to know how to protect your eyes from the sun

UV radiation poses a significant threat to the health of an individual’s eyes, contributing to both immediate and long-term aspects of ocular health. The cornea, lens, and retina are very vulnerable to the harmful impact of UV rays. 

In addition to your eyes, the skin around the eyes is thin and delicate, making it susceptible to sun damage. Continuous exposure may accelerate the ageing process, leading to premature wrinkles and fine lines. 

The impact of UV radiation on an individual’s eyes includes a range of severe health consequences, emphasising the importance of using protective measures to safeguard your eye health.

Eye conditions associated with UV radiation damage

UV radiation is known for its role in sunburns, premature ageing, and an increased risk of various eye conditions, making protection against it crucial for your health. Some of the health-related eye conditions that are caused by sun damage include: 

  • Cataracts: A cataract is a clouding of the eye’s natural lens, leading to blurred vision and visual impairment, or even blindness. It’s estimated that up to 240,000 South Africans are suffering from visual impairment that is related to untreated cataracts. Sun exposure, specifically to ultraviolet (UV) rays, is a significant contributor to cataract development. Prolonged exposure to UV radiation accelerates the breakdown of proteins in your eye’s lens, causing cloudiness.
  • Macular degeneration: This is a progressive eye condition affecting the macula, which is the central part of the retina. Excessive exposure to ultraviolet rays is linked to the development and progression of macular degeneration. UV radiation can cause oxidative stress and damage to the delicate cells in the macula. Over time, this damage may lead to the deterioration of central vision. 
  • Pteygiums: This is a visible growth on the eye’s surface that typically starts on the conjunctiva and extends onto the cornea. Sun exposure is a major factor in the development of pterygium. The UV radiation triggers changes in the conjunctival cells, leading to abnormal growth. Chronic exposure to UV rays increases the likelihood of this growth, causing discomfort, redness, and potential vision distortion. 
  • Cornea sunburn: A corneal sunburn, also known as photokeratitis, is a painful eye condition causing severe irritation and discomfort. Intense sunlight, especially that which reflects UV rays from water contributes to the condition. This is because the UV radiation damages the corneal epithelium, causing inflammation, redness, tearing, and a sensation of grittiness. While the condition is not permanent, repeated episodes may contribute to long-term eye issues and poor vision quality.
  • Dry eyes: This occurs when your eyes lack sufficient lubrication and moisture, leading to discomfort, redness, and a gritty sensation. Sun exposure can contribute to or exacerbate dry eyes. This is because intense sunlight and UV radiation can increase tear evaporation and compromise the eye’s natural lubrication. Thus, prolonged exposure without adequate eye protection can lead to irritation and dryness. 

Skin cancer around the eyes. Sun damage is a major factor in the risk of developing skin cancers, according to the Cancer Association of South Africa. Exposure to ultraviolet rays from the sun damages the DNA in skin cells, leading to mutations that can result in uncontrolled cell growth. The delicate skin around the eyes is particularly vulnerable to sun damage. Prolonged exposure increases the risk of developing skin cancer, including basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma. UV radiation also contributes to the formation of melanoma, an aggressive type of skin cancer. Furthermore, the skin around the eyes is thin and delicate, making it susceptible to sun damage. Continuous exposure may accelerate the ageing process, leading to premature wrinkles and fine lines.

3 ways to protect your eyes from the sun

Take precautions to ensure good eye health and preserve vision quality. Discover how to protect your eyes from the sun with these three easy tips:

1. UV-blocking prescription sunglasses: This is an excellent way to protect your eyes from the harmful effects of UV rays. Sunglasses with UV protection act as a barrier, reducing the risk of eye-related health problems. Choosing UV-blocking sunglasses ensures comprehensive eye care, preserving long-term eye health, and minimising the risk of developing serious eye conditions associated with prolonged sun exposure.

2. Wear a hat: Shielding the face and eyes with a hat is a simple yet effective accessory for preserving good eye health. It provides comprehensive eye protection from the sun. Choosing brimmed hats is advisable because it provides better shade, reducing direct exposure of the eyes to the sun. This additional barrier complements UV-blocking sunglasses, offering extra coverage to the delicate skin around the eyes and preventing UV-induced sun damage. Hats also minimise glare and enhance overall sun protection, reducing the risk of developing eye conditions like cataracts. 

3. Staying hydrated is crucial for maintaining eye health in the sun. Dehydration can lead to dry eyes. Proper hydration supports the production of tears, which are essential for lubricating and nourishing your eyes. In dry climate conditions, the risk of irritation, blurred vision, and eye strain increases. Adequate water intake helps regulate your body temperature, preventing heat-related stress that may impact overall eye comfort.

Eye check-ups for high-risk individuals

High-risk individuals should have regular eye check-ups to identify any concerns and embark on a treatment or management plan. Optometry Benefits are available for Momentum Health4Me Gold and Silver health insurance plans. Members can visit any optometrist from the Momentum Optometry Network. The benefit is available every two years and includes one eye test and one pair of standard, single-vision lenses or bifocal lenses in a standard frame. Prescription sunglasses and contact lenses are not covered by this benefit. Check the Momentum Health4Me optometrist list to find a professional in your area, and to make an appointment.

Get healthcare with optometry benefits

UV-blocking sunglasses, hats and staying hydrated are some of the great tips about how to protect your eyes from the sun. These simple precautions go a long way in protecting your eyes from the sun. Another way to ensure good eye health is to schedule routine check-ups with an optometrist. Get an affordable healthcare quote with optometry benefits from Momentum Health4Me. Contact our office to discuss your options with a trained consultant.

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