When protecting yourself from sunburn, you most likely give the most attention to your skin. However, it is important that you protect your entire body from harmful UV rays, including your eyes. According to a survey from the American Optometric Association (AOA), nearly 35 percent of Americans admitted that they often forget to protect their eyes from the sun.
Sunburned eyes can cause both short-term and long-term effects. Symptoms include redness or irritation, tearing, pain, a gritty feeling (almost like there's sand in your eyes), blurry vision and temporary loss of vision (called photokeratitis or snow blindness). Long-term effects can include cataracts, benign growths on the eye, skin cancer of the eyelids and surrounding tissue, and possibly macular degeneration.
Recently, CNN newsman Anderson Cooper revealed that he went blind for 36 hours after the sun’s reflection off of the ocean sunburned his eyes. During a broadcast of his daytime talk show Anderson Live, Cooper explained, “I woke up in the middle of the night and it feels like my eyes are on fire…I think, oh maybe I have sand in my eyes or something…It turns out I have sunburned my eyeballs...I went blind for 36 hours.”
According to the AOA, eye damage due to UV rays is cumulative, so it is never too late to start protecting your eyes. Following are some tips for getting started:
1. Wear protective eyewear any time your eyes are exposed to UV light, even on cloudy days and during winter months.
2. Look for quality sunglasses that offer good protection. Sunglasses should block out 99 to 100 percent of both UV-A and UB-B radiation and screen out 75 to 90 percent of visible light.
3. Check to make sure your sunglass lenses are perfectly matched in color and free of distortion and imperfection.
4. Purchase gray-colored lenses. They reduce light intensity without altering the color of objects, providing the most natural color vision.
5. Don’t forget protection for children and teenagers. They typically spend more time in the sun than adults.
6. Schedule comprehensive eye exams.
These simple safety precautions can determine the fate of your eye health now and later in life. Isn’t your vision worth it?