We all enjoy the radiant Florida sunshine, but ultraviolet rays can damage eyes, especially with regular or prolonged exposure. Studies and patient cases demonstrate the sun's ultraviolet (UV) light and high energy visible light (HEV blue light) can lead to eye damage and increase the development and severity of cataracts, retinal damage and macular degeneration, and cause photokeratitis, a sunburn of the cornea that can cause vision loss for 1-2 days or longer, pterygia (wedge-shaped bumps that develop on the whites of the eyes and may spread to the cornea, blurring vision and creating irritation) and pingueculae (benign raised yellow bumps in the white of the eye).
As if that weren’t enough, some people develop tiny freckles in the iris (the colored part of the eye) that can turn into melanomas. While eye melanomas are rare, like any cancer they can become serious if left unchecked and untreated.
Of course this doesn’t mean that everyone should avoid the sun and outdoor activities, but rather enjoy them more mindfully and responsibly, which, luckily isn’t that hard at all.
First, invest in high-quality sunwear specifically constructed to block 100% of UVA/UVB rays and absorb most HEV radiation. “We carry a wide variety of fashionable styles and lenses designed to provide excellent eye protection,” says Doctor of Optometry, Lindsey Walsh. “I particularly recommend a wraparound style for higher-risk people, as they help block peripheral rays, too.”
To improve your protection, wear hats and other protective clothing and try to limit time in the sun between the hours of 10am to 2pm, when the sun is highest in the sky, particularly in environments where there may be a lot of UV “bounce,” such as water, snow, sand and concrete, which compound exposure.
Regular comprehensive eye exams can help your ophthalmologist or optometrist discover early signs of eye disease, so make sure to see your doctor every one to two years, and immediately if you notice sudden changes in your vision, floaters, flashes or other problems. You can also discuss the medications you’re taking, as some can increase your sensitivity to UV radiation and sunburn. “We can also recommend supplements to help bolster your resistance to UV exposure,” says Adria Anguita, OD. “Increasing levels of vitamin C and other key antioxidants can help protect your vision and overall health.”