How to Avoid Sunburned Eyes

Woman wearing sunglasses

Ways to Get Your Eyes Summer Ready

You may be ready for the summer, but are your eyes? Taking a few steps to protect your eyes can help you avoid painful injuries or conditions that may affect your vision. These four tips can improve your eye safety this summer.

Wear Sunglasses

Sunglasses aren't just accessories, they prevent your eyes from the damaging effects of ultraviolet A (UVA) and ultraviolet B (UVB) rays. Exposure to UVA and UVB light increases your risk of macular degeneration, cataracts, and skin cancer around the eyelids, according to Prevent Blindness. Sun exposure may also include the likelihood of pterygium, a growth on your eye that can interfere with vision or might cause photokeratitis.

Photokeratitis occurs when your cornea or conjunctiva become sunburned. The cornea is the clear layer of cells that cover your iris and pupil, while the conjunctiva is found on the whites of your eyes and inside your eyelids.

You're more likely to develop photokeratitis if you spend time in the water or on the sand and don't wear sunglasses. Symptoms of the condition include redness, tearing, pain, headache, and sensitivity to bright light. You may also notice that your vision looks blurry or it feels as if something is stuck in your eyes.

Photokeratitis symptoms usually improve in a few days. If your condition doesn't get better or you have severe pain or loss of vision, call the optometrist.

Some sunglasses offer more protection than others. Look for glasses that:

  • Fully Block Ultraviolet Rays. Sunglasses that block 100 percent of both UVA and UVB rays provide the ultimate protection from the damaging effects of ultraviolet light.
  • Offer Complete Protection: Light still enters your eyes from the sides, tops, and bottoms of your frames when you wear standard sunglasses. Wraparound styles completely prevent UV light from reaching your eyes. The glasses also keep wind or debris from irritating, drying, or injuring your eyes.
  • Fit Well. You probably won't wear your sunglasses consistently if they're too tight or slip down your nose. Try on several pairs before you make a decision. A good fit is particularly important for kids. If the sunglasses are comfortable, your kids are much more likely to wear them all day.
  • Help You See Better. All About Vision notes that gray lenses reduce brightness but don't affect normal color perception, while brown, copper, or dark amber lenses improve contrast and visual sharpness while also blocking blue light. Green lenses are helpful in improving contrast without affecting color. Prescription sunglasses are a good idea if you normally wear glasses.

Wear Goggles in the Water

Water in the eye is an unavoidable hazard of water activities and sports. If you're splashing around in the pool, you're bound to get a little water in your face.

Chlorine or salt in water can be very irritating to your eyes. Putting on goggles every time you take a dip will help you avoid red, uncomfortable eyes.

Use Eye Protection

Wearing safety glasses or goggles when you complete home improvement projects such as mowing your lawn or working with chemicals protect your eyes from devastating injuries. If you forget to put on eye protection, a tiny piece of wood can pierce your eye when you build your new deck, or chemicals may burn your cornea.

Don't Wear Your Contact Lenses in the Water

Contact lenses may swell, stick to your eyes or change shape if worn while you swim, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. These changes make it easier for your eyes to become scratched. If this happens, bacteria or amoeba in the water can enter your eyes through the scratches, causing infections that could jeopardize your vision.

Safeguard your vision by wearing eye protection and visiting the optometrist for annual vision checkups.

Sources:

Prevent Blindness: How Can UV Rays Damage Your Eyes?

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Water and Contact Lenses

American Academy of Ophthalmology: 5 Ways to Get Your Eyes Summer-Ready, 4/28/17

Cleveland Clinic: How to Choose the Best Sunglasses for Your Eye Health, 6/19/19

American Academy of Ophthalmology: What Is Photokeratitis – Including Snow Blindness?, 1/13/20

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