Nothing says summer like basking in the sun—but this quintessential seasonal activity could be putting your eyes at risk. The sun brings outdoor fun but also damaging ultraviolet (UV) rays. To help educate adults and teens about the risks of UV rays, each July we recognize UV Safety Awareness Month. At Nova Health, we want to ensure that you enjoy the dog days of summer without long-term vision and eye health complications. Read on to learn why UV rays are dangerous and what simple—and still stylish—steps you can take to keep your eyes safe this summer.
What are UV Rays?
UV radiation is a form of electromagnetic radiation created by the sun. There are two types of UV rays:
- UVA – has a longer wavelength, and can age the skin
- UVB – has a shorter wavelength and can burn the skin
Why are UV Rays Harmful?
Unprotected exposure to UVA and UVB radiation damages the DNA in skin cells. The damage can cause genetic mutations or defects and cause premature aging, skin cancer including eyelid cancer, and cataracts. In addition, long-term, exposure to UV rays can increase your risk of macular degeneration, an incurable eye disease and the leading cause of vision loss that affects more than 10 million Americans. Other eye health issues that long-term UV radiation can cause include pinguecula and pterygia, or tissue elevations on the eye’s surface.
If you ‘re seeking the perfect summertime tan, beware: You may also be exposed to UV rays from that year-round suntan source the tanning bed.
How to Protect Your Eyes from UV Radiation
The most important and easiest thing that you can do to protect your eyes from UV rays is to wear quality sunglasses designed with UV ray protection. That simple easy step is crucial to your eye health. In addition, follow these summertime tips:
- Avoid going outside during the hours of 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. standard time, which are the most hazardous for UV radiation
- Ensure any pair of UV blocking sunglasses you select indicate that they protect the wearer from both UVA and UVB rays (health tip: sunglasses do not have to be designer, prescription, or high cost to protect you from UV rays)
- Choose sunglasses with maximum coverage, ideally the kind that wrap around to your temples (even if you are wearing contacts that protect against UV rays)
- Wear a hat with a brim (in addition to sunglasses) to shield more UV rays from your face
- Wear sunglasses even on a cloudy day; invisible UV rays permeate thin clouds and haze
- Wear sunglasses all year long; even when skiing in the winter, as the sun produces UV rays in every season, not just summer
- Never look directly at the sun; if you are observing a solar eclipse, use specially designed gear to enjoy the spectacle, or else you could put yourself at risk of solar retinopathy, or damage to your retina
This summer, get outside and get active, but do so safely. Avoid peak sun exposure times, always wear sunglasses and a hat, and while we’re on the subject, coverup with full spectrum sunscreen too. We all love the long days of summer, but we love our eye health more. Stay safe this summer, and if you need us, find a Nova Health location near you