Stepping into spring means summer isn’t too far ahead, and though our wacky climate means anything can happen at any time, you can bet at some point in the summer we’ll have a heat wave and we’ll all be caught off-guard. For this reason, from the 6th – 12th of May, it’s Sun Awareness Week, which aims to raise awareness to the dangers that long exposure to the sun can cause – just early enough for it to sink in before it happens.

Given that iChoose is all about all things eyesight, we’re going to focus on the ways the sun can present a danger to your vision. Something you might know already is that UV light is damaging to the cells that produce vision within the eye, but what you might not know is that damage is cumulative, meaning these harmful UV rays pick up where they left off, and chip away at your eye health over a lifetime.

What Are UV Rays?

UV rays are actually radiation from the sun, meaning exposure isn’t necessarily mitigated by avoiding direct sunlight – even on cloudy days ultraviolet radiation may still be high. These rays reach us in 3 forms: UVA, UVB, and UVC. You don’t really have to worry about UVC because it’s mostly filtered out by the Earth’s atmosphere, or UVB, which the cornea absorbs, so it’s UVA you need to make sure your sunglasses block. At iChoose we offer sunglasses options on every pair of glasses. Sunglasses with large lenses will give you the best coverage, such as Malvern.

Short Term Conditions

Inflammation of the cornea – scientifically known as photokeratitis – is one of the more prevalent short-term conditions associated with UV exposure. This is typically caused by looking directly at the sun, or from UV rays being reflected from snow, water, or sand. There is another common condition called photoconjunctivitis which arises as the conjunctiva (the membrane around the eye) becomes inflamed due to UV exposure as well. Both of these conditions typically clear up within a couple of days, but they can be painful. It’s important not to self-diagnose, so it’s always best to have eyesight issues checked out by a doctor or optometrist to be safe.

Long Term Conditions

As mentioned above, the damage UV rays do to your eyes is cumulative, which means many of the longer term conditions appear later in life. Macular degeneration, where there is gradual loss of central vision, is associated with long-term UV exposure. Similarly, UV damage is linked to the development of cataracts in later life, which cause the lens of the eye to cloud. It’s important to take precautionary measures to shield your eyes from the sun wherever possible to mitigate the chances of this occurring somewhere down the line.

Children’s Eyes

Children are particularly at risk of vision damage via UV light because, as they’re growing and developing, their pupils are larger in order to allow in more light. The lenses of the eyes of children are also much clearer, and given children’s playing habits whether at home or on holiday, they’re frequently outside and under the sun’s rays a lot more than adults so it’s important they’re wearing appropriate eyewear.

Little Known Facts

Obviously direct sunlight is the primary source of harmful UV rays but unfortunately these rays can reflect of surfaces found around our planet, and redirect them back up at you.

For example:

  • Grass, soil, and water reflect just a little under 10% of UV radiation
  • Snow can reflect as much as 80% of UV radiation
  • Dry sand reflects around 15% of UV radiation
  • Sea foam reflects roughly 25% of UV rays

The time of day also contributes to your UV exposure, which is at its worst at noon. However, the major threat to eyesight sits somewhere either side of noon, as the angle of the sun’s rays are better able to reach your eyes than when beaming down from directly above. But, try not to let all this dampen your fun in the sun this summer – just remember to wear your sunglasses!

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