You’ve slathered on the sunscreen before heading out to the beach—you’re all set for sun protection, right? Not quite yet.
Your eyes are one of the more vulnerable parts of your body when it comes to sun damage. In fact, nearly 10% of skin cancer cases are found around the eyes. Additionally, your eyes themselves can be severely affected by UV damage. At least 10% of cataract cases are the result of UV exposure. What’s more, damage from the sun can result in certain types of eye cancer, macular degeneration and keratitis. So keep those eyeballs healthy this summer and follow these tips for eye-related sun protection.
Respect the specs. Sometimes the best way to protect your eyes from the sun is to simply throw on a pair of sunglasses. While it’s easy in this day and age to choose sunglasses based on style, you should opt for a pair that’s of good quality. This means finding a pair that provides 100% protection from both UVA and UVB rays and reduces glare from the sun. Wraparound or close-fitting styles with wide lenses offer the most protection from every angle. Thankfully, many designers are now gearing sunglasses to be both stylish and protective, so you don’t have to worry about letting down your inner fashionista on the beach.
Double down. Don’t just rely on sunglasses to do all the work. Wide brimmed hats and shade umbrellas provide excellent protection by physically blocking rays from reaching your precious peepers. They don’t keep UV rays from reflecting off the sidewalk, water, etc. and damaging your eyes—that’s why you should still wear sunglasses.
Check the forecast. Check the UV Index from the Environmental Protection Agency and the National Weather Service before heading out into the sunshine for extended periods of time. The UV Index provides local UV levels and forecasts the expected risk of UV radiation overexposure, so you can plan accordingly. Time of day, ozone depletion, season and weather variations all affect the UV radiation levels, so give the UV Index a gander before you make plans for the day so you’ll be prepared with proper eye protection.
Protect little eyes. While UV rays are harmful no matter your age, children’s eyes are more susceptible to sun damage. Young eyes have clearer inner layers compared to adult eyes, which allows damaging rays to penetrate deeper. This coupled with the fact that children tend to spend significantly more time outside than adults makes sunglasses a high priority for your kids’ summer fun. Eye care practitioners often cite transition lenses, which are prescription classes that automatically darken when exposed to light, as an ideal option for kids who are outdoors often.
Whether you’re at the beach, on a hike or just mowing the lawn, don’t forget to protect your eyes from the sun. And don’t just protect them in the summer—UV damage can happen even in the depths of an infamous Michigan winter. So keep your eye on the prize and keep those shades and these tips handy all year long.