PEORIA, Ill. (WMBD) — The sun is shining, school is out, families are planning vacations, and people are spending more time outside. Now is when dermatologists and estheticians push for sun skin protectant, but how much do people know about protecting their eyes?
“The same way that you apply sunscreen on your skin to protect from the harmful UV rays, those same UV rays can affect and damage your eyes,” said Optometrist Dr. Tim Cundiff. “You get freckles on your skin, you can get pigmentation inside the eye… we always want to make sure we are protecting our retina, protecting the iris, protecting our eyeball for the same reasons why you’re protecting your skin.”
The best way to protect your eyes? Sunglasses.
“Sunglasses are not just for style and for fashion,” Cundiff said, “they’re for protection, more importantly.”
UV rays, Cundiff said, can cause growths and cancers in the eye. He also said the skin of the eyelids is very thin and prone to damage, which is why sunglasses are often larger than regular glasses.
Sunglasses should be worn even in overcast weather, Cundiff said. The sky is still bright, so light, and more specifically UV rays, are still coming through. In fact, Cundiff recommends sunglasses year-round!
But what kind of sunglasses should the average person buy? Cundiff said simply: “you’re getting what you’re paying for.”
“You want to make sure you are getting appropriate UV-blocking sunglass lenses,” he said. “Polarized lenses are the best lenses you can get.”
UV-blocking lenses should be properly marked, he said, so if a pair does not specifically show it is UV-blocking, it would be a mistake to assume so.
Cundiff explained that lighter eye colors cause higher light sensitivity. This, however, does not mean that darker eye colors need less protection.
All this said, Cundiff said it is still much better to be out in the sun than it is to be in front of a screen.
Increased time indoors, and excessive screen time, are big causes of nearsightedness.
“Any intense light is going to have an impact on the eyes,” Cundiff said.
He said this can also include summer activities like campfires, sparklers, and fireworks. When it comes to bonfires or campfires, Cundiff warned of stray embers that could burn the eye.
Swimming pools are a staple of summer fun. But do not open your eyes underwater without goggles, Cundiff said.
Contact lens wearers should not wear contacts while swimming, whether it’s a pool, lake, river, or ocean.
“Contacts are sponges, and they soak up all the bacteria, all the chemicals,” he said. “One of the most dangerous things is the hot tub, a lot of bacteria lives in those hot tubs.”