The Sun. Many of us have a love/hate relationship with our fiery friend. When there’s not enough sun, we complain about how grey and moody the weather is. When it finally decides to come out, we complain about how hot it is! Needless to say, the sun provides a very important function for us humans in the form of helping to regulate the seasons, not to mention being the prerequisite to life on this planet.
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Praises aside, the sun can actually be harmful to our health in many different ways. You’re probably aware of the effect that the sun can have on our skin. Tans are nice, but if not done properly, you can get sunburnt or develop skin cancer. Information regarding sunburn is pretty widespread now, but you probably aren’t too clued up on the negative effect that the sun has on our eyes. To the annoyance of opticians everywhere and the laser eye surgeons at Optilase Derry, your knowledge of the suns effect on the eyes probably extends to the limit of “don’t look directly at the sun, you can go blind!” There is truth in this statement, but there’s a lot more you need to know about keeping your eyes safe. In this article, we’re going to explore the hidden dangers of sunlight and how to protect your eyes.
You’re probably not an optician or scientist, so I’ll try not to use too much scientific terms. However, it is important that you know the basics of how the suns light works. Basically, there’s a spectrum. We can’t see all types of light. We can only see visible light which consists of the colours of the rainbow. There are however other types of rays which come from the sun in the form of Ultraviolet or UV rays. You can’t see UV rays, but they’re there, and they’re ready to do some serious damage to your eyes.
There are different types, but UVA rays are the type which can penetrate the cornea of our eyes and reach deep inside to affect the retina. Together with its partner in crime, HEV radiation, or high-energy visible radiation, you can be at risk of developing various eye diseases and cancers.
There are also different factors which amplify the effect that the sun has on our eyes. For instance, the country that you reside in will affect the levels of UV rays in the sunlight, with countries closer to the equator having more. Altitude also plays a key role – the higher up you are in the world such as at mountain peaks, the more UV rays you are exposed to. Even the time of day plays a significant role; when the sun is highest at midday, the UV rays are also higher. Less obviously is the factor of surfaces – highly reflective surfaces like snow can almost double UV exposure. So why should you care? Let’s take a look at how these rays can hurt us.
UV rays can cause a host of diseases. Cataracts are one of these diseases which progressively clouds and yellows the crystalline lens in the eye, which we need to focus on objects. It is one of the most common causes of treatable blindness. Although it is commonly caused by aging, extended exposure to sunlight can gradually cause the problem too.
You are also at risk of eyelid cancers which compromise between 5 and 10 percent of all skin cancers. Although it doesn’t affect your eye directly, the type of cancer you can get, can easily spread to the surrounding areas, which happens to be your eyes.
Other problems include corneal sunburn which occurs when high levels of UV rays are reflected into the eyes, and macular degeneration which is the typical cause of vision loss in older people, but has recently been linked to increased exposure to UV rays. If these problems don’t sound like a lot of fun to you, then there’s ways that we can prevent these issues and protect our eyes against damaging sunlight.
So how can we protect and preserve our cherished eyesight? Unfortunately, UV damage is cumulative, so if you’re an adult, your eyesight probably isn’t as good as it could be. But it’s still important to do everything you can to prevent eye related diseases from developing.
If you speak to opticians, they will tell you the best way to protect your eyes is by wearing sunglasses. Many people wear sunglasses as a fashion statement, but it serves an important purpose.
Sunglasses have the potential to block up to 100 percent of UV rays and absorb a lot of the HEV rays that the sun sends out. Something to think about the next time you go shopping for sunglasses! Sunglasses can come in many different shades, but typically the darker variety blocks more of the harmful rays.
If you wear glasses on a regular basis, you can consider the option of adding a tint that blocks UV rays, only when the sun is active. This is useful so you don’t have to keep switching between two different pairs of glasses while continuing to protect your eyes. If you speak to your opticians about this, they will be able to create a custom set of lenses that can achieve this.
A final thing to keep in mind is that the sun’s rays can affect your eyes all throughout the year, even in winter. If you are serious about preserving your eyesight, make sure to have adequate eye protection on whenever the sun’s out.