While having fun in the sun, families should take precautions as they participate in outdoor activities, according to the Kentucky Optometric Association (KOA).
Protecting yourself from the damaging rays of the sun should extend beyond sunscreen for your skin. Safeguarding your eyes is crucial as well.
“People spend a lot of time outdoors in the summer, so too much exposure to the sun is common,” said Dr. Lynn Shewmaker, an optometrist with offices in Fort Mitchell and Dry Ridge. “Sunglasses are more than just a fashion accessory because overexposure to ultraviolet rays fast forwards aging of the eyes and increases the risk for serious diseases.”
The sun’s UV radiation can cause cataracts; cancer of the eyelids and skin around the eyes; benign growths on the eye’s surface; and photokeratitis, sometimes called snow blindness, which is a temporary but painful sunburn of the eye’s surface. Long-term exposure also can cause damage to the retina, a lining of the eye that is used for seeing.
Drivers also should be aware that visibility can be another problem.
“Spending just two or three hours in bright sunlight can hamper the eyes’ ability to adapt quickly to nighttime or indoor light levels,” Shewmaker said. “This can make driving at night after spending a day in the sun more hazardous.”
In addition, long-term exposure to the blue and violet portion of the solar spectrum has been implicated as a risk factor for macular degeneration, especially for people who are “sun sensitive.”
Wide-brimmed hats and caps can block about 50 percent of UV radiation from the eyes, which is not enough protection. To protect your eyes, the Kentucky Optometric Association recommends people look for sunglass lenses that:
• Block 99 to 100 percent of both UV-A and UV-B radiation;
• Screen out 75 to 90 percent of visible light;
• Are perfectly matched in color and absorption and are free of distortion and imperfection; and
Are gray for proper color recognition. In addition, Shewmaker said some contact lenses also can block out both UV-A and UV-B radiation. The KOA also urges parents to remember to protect infants’ and children’s eyes from the sun at all times. This is particularly important since children tend to spend more time in the sun than adults.
Doctors of optometry are located in 106 counties in Kentucky. They are highly qualified, trained doctors on the frontline of eye and vision care who examine, diagnose, treat and manage diseases and disorders of the eye.