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Eye Health – Essential tips to protect your eyes this summer

Posted: Jun 07 2023

Understanding the Impact of Sunlight on Eye Health

UV rays, or ultraviolet rays, are a form of electromagnetic radiation emitted by the sun. When exposed to the eyes, these rays can cause significant damage. The surface of the eye and surrounding skin is particularly susceptible to the harmful effects of UV radiation leading to solar ageing, growths and skin cancers. There is also evidence that cataract and macular degeneration may be affected by UV exposure.  It’s important to note that UV rays are present even on cloudy days and can reflect off surfaces like water, sand, and snow, intensifying their impact on our eyes.

There are three types of UV rays: UVA, UVB, and UVC. UVA rays have the longest wavelength and are capable of penetrating deeper into the eye, reaching the retina. These rays are associated with the development of age-related eye conditions such as cataracts and macular degeneration. UVB rays have a shorter wavelength and are partially absorbed by the ozone layer. However, a significant amount of UVB radiation still reaches the Earth’s surface, causing damage to the surface of the eye and increasing the risk of cataracts and photokeratitis (also known as “snow blindness”). UVC rays have the shortest wavelength and are mostly absorbed by the Earth’s atmosphere, so they pose a minimal risk to eye health.

Prolonged sun exposure, especially without proper eye and skin protection, has been closely linked to several eye conditions. Sun damage of the surface skin of the eye leads to yellowing, lumpy tissue and growth of tissue on to the clear window of the eye (pterygium).  Surface cancers of the surface of the eye and skin such as squamous cell and basal cell carcinoma are all strongly linked to life time sun exposure. Cataracts, a clouding of the eye’s natural lens, may be accelerated by the cumulative effects of UV radiation. Macular degeneration, a leading cause of vision loss in older adults, has also been linked with prolonged exposure to UVA and UVB rays. These harmful rays can damage the macula, the part of the retina responsible for central vision which is why directly viewing a solar eclipse can lead to permanent damage to vision. The skin around the eye is also fragile and prone to UV ageing leading to lines and wrinkles.

Protecting our eyes from prolonged and cumulative sun exposure is crucial in preventing these eye conditions, prevent photo-ageing of the skin, and maintaining long-term eye health.

Choosing the Right Sunglasses: Your Ultimate Defence

Wearing sunglasses is paramount when it comes to safeguarding our eyes from the harmful effects of UV rays. Sunglasses act as a barrier, shielding the eyes and surrounding delicate tissues from direct exposure to UV radiation. By reducing the amount of UV light that enters the eyes, sunglasses help minimise the risk of developing growths on the surface of the eye and protect the skin around the eyes and may reduce the risk of various eye conditions, including  cataracts, macular degeneration. Moreover , sunglasses provide immediate relief by reducing glare, improving visual comfort, and enhancing overall visual clarity. By making sunglasses a part of your daily routine, you prioritise your eye health and ensure long-term protection against the damaging effects of the sun.

When choosing sunglasses, several key factors should be considered. First and foremost, check for UV protection. Opt for sunglasses that offer 100% UV protection to block UVA and UVB rays effectively. The lens tint is another important consideration. Darker tints, such as grey, green, or brown, are effective in reducing brightness and glare. Polarised lenses are highly recommended as they minimise glare, enhance visual clarity, and reduce eye strain.

Additionally, ensure that the sunglasses fit properly and comfortably. Look for a pair that adequately covers your eyes, wraps around the sides to minimise peripheral exposure, and has a snug but comfortable fit to prevent slippage during activities. Considering these factors will help you select sunglasses that provide optimal protection and visual comfort.

Sunglasses have evolved into a fashion statement while maintaining their functionality. Today, a wide range of sunglass styles and designs suit various tastes and needs. Classic styles like aviators, wayfarers, and cat-eye frames are timeless and versatile, complementing different face shapes. Sporty sunglass designs are popular for those engaging in outdoor activities, offering a secure fit and added durability.

Oversized frames provide increased coverage and add a touch of glamour. Mirrored lenses offer a trendy and stylish look while providing extra protection by reflecting sunlight away from the eyes. Additionally, there are prescription sunglasses available for those who require vision correction. With the abundance of sunglass options, it’s easy to find a pair that enhances your personal style and meets your functional needs, allowing you to make a fashion statement while keeping your eyes well-protected.

Protect the skin around the eyes and look younger!

Cumulative exposure of the skin to the UVA and UVB radiation in sunlight leads to ageing of the skin (photo-ageing) leading to wrinkles and lines. There is also strong evidence for increased risk of skin cancers  and cancers in those who have had greater lifetime sun exposure. The skin of the face and eyelids is particularly susceptible to photo-ageing and lines and can easily be protected with daily use of high SPF factor moisturiser (SPF30-SPF50) even in less sunny months to reduce cumulative UV skin damage.

Hydration and Nutrition for Healthy Eyes

Staying hydrated is crucial for maintaining overall health, including the health of our eyes. During the summer, when temperatures rise, and outdoor activities increase, it’s important to replenish the body’s fluid levels to prevent dehydration. Adequate hydration helps maintain the moisture balance in our eyes, preventing dryness and discomfort. When we become dehydrated, the tear film in our eyes can evaporate more quickly, leading to dry and irritated eyes. Drinking enough water throughout the day supports proper tear production, keeping our eyes moist, lubricated, and comfortable, even in the hot summer months.

A balanced and nutritious diet plays a significant role in maintaining optimal eye health. Several key nutrients are particularly beneficial for eye health. Vitamin A, found in foods like carrots, sweet potatoes, and spinach, is essential for good vision and can help prevent night blindness and dry eyes. Vitamin C, abundant in citrus fruits, berries, and peppers, is a powerful antioxidant that supports the health of blood vessels in the eyes.

Vitamin E, present in nuts, seeds, and vegetable oils, helps protect the eyes against age-related damage. Omega-3 fatty acids, found in fatty fish like salmon and sardines, as well as flaxseeds and walnuts, are beneficial for the eyes’ structural integrity and may reduce the risk of developing macular degeneration. Incorporating these nutrient-rich foods into your diet can support your eye health and reduce the risk of certain eye conditions.

Engaging in outdoor activities during the summer can expose our eyes to various irritants and potential infections. Practising good hygiene is essential to protect the eyes. Avoid touching or rubbing your eyes with unwashed hands, as this can introduce bacteria and cause infections. If you wear contact lenses, follow proper hygiene guidelines, including thorough handwashing before handling lenses and using sterile solutions for cleaning and storing them. Water and contact lenses should never come into contact with each other due to the risk of severe infection. Washing, swimming or showering in contact lenses should be avoided.

It’s also important to regularly clean and replace your sunglasses to prevent the build-up of dirt, dust, and bacteria on the lenses. Wear goggles to protect your eyes from chlorine, bacteria, and other contaminants when swimming, whether in pools or natural bodies of water. By following these hygiene practices, you can reduce the risk of eye infections, irritations, and discomfort that may arise from increased outdoor activities.

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Prioritise your eye health this summer season

In conclusion, prioritising eye health this summer is of utmost importance. The summer season brings increased exposure to harmful UV rays, outdoor activities, and potential eye irritants. Understanding the risks associated with sun exposure and taking necessary precautions such as wearing sunglasses with UV protection, selecting the right eyewear, staying hydrated, and practising good hygiene can safeguard our eyes and reduce the likelihood of eye conditions and discomfort.

Remember, healthy eyes contribute to our overall well-being and quality of life, allowing us to fully enjoy the beauty and adventures that summer has to offer. So, make eye health a priority this summer and ensure a season filled with clear vision, comfort, and the joy of experiencing all the world around us has to offer.

OCL Vision is England’s only surgeon-owned, comprehensive private eye care group. With OCL Vision surgeons operating in dedicated clinics in London and Elstree, Hertfordshire, patients can access world-class eye care closer to home with a specialist consultant who has dedicated their career to a specific branch of Ophthalmology.

With over 180 years of collective experience in eye surgery, OCL Vision is an elite group of eye surgeons who have performed over 60,000 surgical procedures, published more than 250 research papers, and presented their work nationally and internationally. Together we provide patients with the highest standards of private eye care.

If you have been denied Laser Eye Surgery and would like to discuss other potential treatment options with OCL, make an enquiry online or call on 0203 993 4268

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