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Family Health

Bright Eyes

July is UV Safety month. Of course  you know to protect your skin with frequent applications of sunscreen with an SPF of no less than 15. Now, are you protecting your eyes as well as you’re protecting your skin? 

Scientific studies show that spending hours in the sun without eye protection can contribute to cataracts and may cause growths on the eyes, including cancerous ones. So eye doctors (ophthalmologists) recommend we all wear sunglasses that absorb at least 99 percent of the ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun, as well as a brimmed hat that provides shade – especially when we’re at the beach or outside for long periods of time. And that goes for everyone of every age.

The cute plastic sunglasses from the toy store probably aren’t the right tool for the important job of protecting young  kids’ eyes. Look for a pair that is labeled to provide 100 percent protection from UV rays, and for a design that covers the entire eyes, including the sides. And teens who ride bikes, skateboard or play in summer leagues should be sporting the highest level of UV protection for their eyes – not just the hippest new style of frames.

Snow in July
No matter what the thermometer reads, you can still get “snow blindness” in the summer. A form of photokeratitis, snow blindness is a painful result of exposure to UV rays reflected off of ice, snow, sand and even concrete.

You usually don’t notice snow blindness until the damage is done, sometimes up to six hours later. Think of it as having sunburned eyeballs. What you’ve done is actually damaged the surface layer of your cornea (the clear front part of your eye) and the cell layer that covers the inside of your eyelids and the whites of your eyes.
  • Snow blindness symptoms include:
  • Pain in and around the eyes
  • Redness and swelling
  • Blurry vision
  • Watery eyes
  • A feeling of having sand or grit in your eyes
  • Headache
  • Sensitivity to bright light
  • Seeing halos around objects
  • Twitching in the eyelids
  • Reduced pupil size
  • Some people experience temporary color changes and even a loss of vision.

Snow blindness symptoms usually go away on their own, diminishing gradually over a day or two. But you can also ease the symptoms right away:
  • Move out of the sun and into a dark room
  • Close your eyes and place a cool washcloth over them
  • Take an over-the-counter pain reliever, such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen
  • Avoid rubbing the eyes
  • If you wear contact lenses, remove them immediately and use artificial tears to ease dryness. Talk to your eye doctor if the symptoms don’t ease in a day or two.

Who is at greatest risk of eye damage from UV light?
  • People who have had cataract surgery should always be careful of the sun’s rays, even if your surgeon inserted a UV-absorbent intraocular lens
  • Those on certain prescription drugs that make skin more sensitive to light including the following prescriptions:
  • Many antibiotics such as doxycycline and Cipro
  • Certain birth control/estrogen pills including Lovral and premarin
  • An anti-malarial drug Phenothiazine
  • The Psoriasis treatment Psoralens
  • People with blue or green eyes have been shown to have an increased risk of rare eye cancers due to UV light exposure
Make this the summer of love – for your eyes and the future of your ocular health.

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