July is National UV Safety Month
Protecting yourself from the sun’s UV radiation is important all year. In the summer months, it is even more important since people tend to spend more time outside when it is warm and sunny. July is National UV Safety Month, so we wanted to share information about how too much UV exposure damages your eyes and skin. We hope this information helps you seek effective sun protection for you and your family.
Before we share information on sun protection, it is important to understand why we must protect ourselves from UV damage. Also, don’t forget to protect your children from UV damage since it accumulates over a lifetime. Protecting little ones now gives them the best chance for a healthy future.
About UV Radiation and Your Eyes
The sun is our primary source of Ultraviolet radiation (UV). Although we always caution patients to minimize exposure, UV actually is beneficial to life. We produce Vitamin D through UV exposure and it also may be associated with our sleep cycles and mood management. However, it is easy to get too much UV and these rays cause damage at a cellular level.
There are three kinds of UV rays — UVA, UVB, and UVC. The Earth’s ozone layer protects us from most UVC radiation, but we need to take action to protect our skin and eyes from both UVA and UVB.
Most people realize that UV light damages the skin, but sometimes people overlook that it also damages the eyes. Some vision health issues resulting partially from too much UV exposure include:
- Skin cancer around the eyes
- Abnormal growths in the eyes called Pterygium
- Macular degeneration especially premature age-related macular degeneration
There are a few factors that contribute to UV exposure. Knowing these factors makes it easier to effectively protect yourself and your loved ones.
- Your altitude — the higher the elevation the greater the UV exposure.
- Geographic location — if you are close to the equator then UV exposure is greater.
- The time of day — the exposure is usually strongest between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. when the sun is highest.
- Your surroundings — when you are in sunny areas rather than in the shade your UV exposure is also higher. Also, reflective surfaces like water, snow, and glass increase your exposure.
- Medications — some medicines increase your sensitivity to UV.
Some UV rays penetrate the clouds so you need to protect yourself all year even when the weather does not appear “sunny.” Although awareness of which UV is highest help, you still benefit from sunglasses throughout daylight hours as well as throughout the year. Take additional precautions when you are in situations where UV exposure is greatest such as skiing in the mountains or during water recreation like boating.
Finally, be aware that some health conditions make people more sensitive to light. For example, patients recovering from cataract surgery experience additional sensitivity.
Effective Ways To Decrease Or Prevent UV Damage To Your Skin And Eyes
- Wear sunglasses whenever outside or driving during the day.
- Wear a brimmed hat during outdoor activity.
- Consider wearing contact lenses with UV protection, however, you may still need to wear sunglasses to protect areas that the contacts do not cover.
- Minimize time outside during the day and in areas where UV is high.
- Wear broad-spectrum sunscreen to protect your skin, including the skin around your eyes.
- Consider covering up with clothing since the cloth provides some UV protection.
While these solutions seem simple, there is a little more to it. Not all sunglasses provide adequate protection. Also, some hats may be better than others. The following sections offers tips on how to select the right sunglasses and hats.
What To Look For When Choosing Sunglasses
Sometimes people choose sunglasses based on style and personal preference. We recommend making sure these sunglasses provide appropriate UV protection because not all sunglasses do. The American Optometric Society (AOA) offers guidance on selecting sunglasses. They recommend:
- Lenses that block 99-100% of UV.
- The lenses should be broad spectrum protecting against both UVA and UVB
- They should screen 75% of the light or more
- Brown or gray lenses are available, with gray lenses you preserve color recognition
- The glasses should be large enough to while the whole eye
- The fewer gaps the better so large, wraparound glasses that fit close to the head are most ideal
- The lenses should be perfectly matched
Try the sunglasses on to ensure a snug, secure fit. Your optometrist sells quality sunglasses that meets the AOA standards for UV protection.
Choosing A Protective Hat
When choosing a hat, the main thing is a hat with a brim to provide shade to your face and eyes. A hat also protects your scalp from UV, but a visor may still offer effective protection for your eyes. Other things to look for:
- The hat should fit well and the brim should be large enough to shade the eyes.
- Look for fabrics that offer UV protection, many outdoor sports retailers carry hats and other clothing designed to offer sun protection.
- Choose the right hat for your activity, for example, a sunhat may look stylish at a picnic but may not stay securely in place while jogging outside.
- Darker colors tend to offer more UV protection than lighter colored fabric. Opaque fabrics with a tighter weave also offer more sun protection.
- Non-Stretch fabric tends to offer more protection than stretchy fabric.
We hope you use these tips during National UV Safety Month and throughout the year. Doing so may help preserve your vision and your health.
In addition, protect your eye health with annual vision screenings. Even if you do not need vision correction, an exam screens for glaucoma and other eye health issues that usually have no symptoms at first. Early diagnosis leads to early treatment and a higher chance of successful treatment. If you live in the Charlotte area and have not had an annual eye examination, contact Piedmont Eyecare today to schedule one.