Although it is lovely to go outside and enjoy yourself in the sunshine it is important to take steps to protect your eyes against the sun’s potentially harmful rays. Whilst many people realise that they need to protect their skin against the sun, they tend not to realise that their eyes are also at risk.
If you are planning on going out in bright sunlight it is important that you take steps to protect your eyes.
What can happen to Your Eyes in Bright Light?
The sun can burn your eyes in the same way that it burns your skin. Even when your eyelids are closed, your eyes are still at risk from the sun, because light can travel through the thin skin on the eyelid. Looking directly at the sun can cause immediate burns on the retina, and can permanently damage the light receptive rods and cones in your eye.
Whilst your cornea and the lens of your eyes are both able to filter a limited amount of harmful UV rays, they can become damaged over time, and years of UV absorption can cause the lens to become discoloured.
What Types of Damage can Sunlight do to Your Eyes?
Sun damage to the eyes can increase the risk of various types of age-related eye disorders, including macular degeneration. Whilst age-related degeneration can be slowed down, there is no way to reverse the damage which has already occurred, so it is best to take steps to reduce your initial risk.
It is estimated that around 10% of all adult cataracts are related to UV exposure, with particular focus on exposure to UVB. Overexposure to sunlight can also increase the risk of getting various types of cancer which could affect the eyesight, including eyelid cancers, intraocular melanoma and cancer of the conjunctiva (the thin, transparent membrane which protects the eye.
How to Protect Your Eyes
If you intend to go out in bright light, you should always wear proper sunglasses. Dark glasses will not effectively protect the eyes unless they have been made from a material which offers 100% UV protection. Choose sunglasses which protect against UVA and UVB rays, as both of these can be harmful. The best sunglasses available in the UK should have 100% UltraViolet protection and also have the CE Mark or British Standard BS EN ISO 12312-1:2013.
If you have to go out and you do not have sunglasses available, try to wear a hat with a wide brim, or a peak, which will help to protect your eyes from direct sunlight. This solution is not ideal, because your eyes are still susceptible to UV rays but it is certainly better than no protection at all.
If you are going skiing, snowboarding or spending any time in a snowy environment, you also need to take safety precautions. Goggles with UV protection are the best choice if you are doing winter sports. Not only will goggles protect your eyes against airborne ice and debris whilst you are out on the slopes, but they will also help to protect your eyes against reflected UV light. In bright, snowy environments your eyes face a double risk from UV, because they are susceptible to direct rays as well as reflected rays.
If you ever use artificial tanning beds, it is also important that you take steps to protect your eyes, because these beds still produce harmful rays. When you tan, your salon should make sure that they provide you with protective goggles that meet health and safety standards. If your salon does not offer you these protective goggles, then the chances are that they are failing to meet safety standards elsewhere, and it may be best for you to avoid them.