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We’re well trained to reach for the sun lotion because we understand the effect the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays can have on our skin. But did you know that radiation from the sun can damage your eyes in the same way? 

To mark Sun Awareness Week between 14th and 20th May we’re here to explain the potential dangers of too much sun exposure, and how to protect your eyes from its harmful rays this summer.

Why is the sun harmful to our eyes?

The UV radiation that comes from the sun is extremely powerful and can lead to cell damage all over the body.

Too much exposure to the sun’s UV rays can increase your risk of developing common eye conditions like cataracts and macular degeneration. It can also directly cause sun-related visual problems including:

  • Pingueculae and pterygia (bumps and growths on the eyeball usually caused by UV radiation from the sun).
  • Photokeratitis (a painful condition that can be described as sunburn of the cornea).
  • Photoconjunctivitis (an itchy inflammation of the eye, caused by too much sun exposure).

Problems like cataracts will only develop after years of repeat exposure, but issues like photokeratitis and photoconjunctivitis can present after just a few hours of sunlight without eye protection.

Keep safe in the sun

It’s important to be aware of the risks concerning the sun and your eyes, so that you can take precautions and enjoy summer activities safely. By taking preventative measures, you can protect your eyes when you head outdoors this summer.

  • sunglassesSunglasses are important. Make sure your sunglasses are labelled to show that they will block over 99% of UVA and UVB rays. Wraparound-style sunglasses cover a larger area, so will provide more protection.
  • Wear a wide-brimmed hat to keep the sun away from your eyes.
  • Be particularly vigilant in snow or ice. These are highly reflective surfaces that will expose you to as much as 80% more sunlight.
  • Take extra care at peak times. Although midday, when the sun is highest in the sky, poses the greatest risk of damage to your skin, it’s actually mid-morning and mid-afternoon that are danger zones for your eyes, because that’s when the sun is level with your eyeline.
  • Don’t forget to protect the kids. Make sure they have UV protective sunglasses just like you.

Remember that with the right protection, getting out into the sun is positively healthy; it can promote better sleep, raise your Vitamin D levels, encourage exercise, improve your mood and even reduce your risk of myopia.

Solve the glasses v sunglasses dilemma

If you wear spectacles, summertime can pose an awkward dilemma. Do you invest in a second pair of prescription sunglasses, or perhaps go for a pair of photochromic lenses that automatically react and go dark when exposed to sunlight? It’s a tough issue with no right answer. So, why not solve your annual eyewear issues once and for all by undergoing laser eye surgery? That way, a pair of normal sunglasses (and a hat) are all you’ll need to have fun in the sun.