Each May we mark national Ultraviolet (UV) Eye Protection Awareness Month and we remind patients of the need to wear proper UV protective eyewear and use some common sense precautions to avoid the harmful effects of UV that result in eye injury.
Outdoor Activities Mean Greater UV Exposure
While the summer months are a great time to be outdoors-walking, running, hiking, swimming-going to the beach and just enjoying our community, it also means you will likely have greater exposure to the sun and ultraviolet or UV rays on a daily basis, and thus need to use proper UV eye protection by wearing sunglasses or UV protecting eyewear. This is particularly important if you have had previous eye surgery such as LASIK or cataract surgery as LASIK patients and cataract surgery patients with advanced technology lens implants typically no longer need to wear eyeglasses after their surgery-and they often just forget about the need for UV protection.
We want them to remember! We want to make sure eye surgery and other patients avoid is the risk of “sun burnt eyes” or photokeratitis, which is also called ultraviolet keratitis. This can be quite uncomfortable and even be sight threatening.
Day to Day UV Exposure Risk
The risk of sun and UV damage to your eyes can occur over the long term on a cumulative basis or can occur in a more acute manner. Most people don’t realize that the risk of UV eye damage can literally change from day to day with the weather, the cloud cover and your physical location. Sunny days at the beach are certainly riskier than cloudy days and thus you may need to adjust the time you spend in the sun along with being particularly cautious about wearing properly selected and fit sunglasses at that time.
Because of the day to day variation in UV exposure, patients are encouraged to check their UV exposure risk by visiting the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) SunWise information page where they can see their individual UV Index or even downloading the UV Index free mobile app, each of which will help you to be more aware and safe.
Common Sense UV protection Tips & Precautions
- Always wear sunglasses that block 100% of UVA and UVB rays. Sunglasses without UV protection may shade the eyes but actually cause the pupils to dilate, allowing in even more harmful rays.
- Wear a brimmed hat along with sunglasses that block 100% of UVA and UVB rays.
- Choose wrap-around sunglasses to protect the eyes and the skin around the eyes.
- Be aware that although some contact lenses may offer UV protection, they cannot protect the entire eye and the skin around it.
- Choose sunglasses made of unbreakable polycarbonate, especially for children and for those who lead active lifestyles.
- Be sure to ask your doctor about the photosensitizing side effects of any medications that you might take.
- Always wear eye protection when using a tanning bed. According the American Academy of Ophthalmology, tanning beds can produce UV levels up to 100 times more than the sun, which can cause serious damage to the external and internal structures of the eye and eyelids.
If you or someone you know has a question about selection and fitting of UV blocking lenses, coatings, color changing lenses such as Transitions® or any type of sunglasses or eyewear, please call The Eye Care & Surgery Center at 908-789-8999, visit The Eye Care & Surgery Center or facebook.com/eyecareandsurgerycenter to schedule an appointment.