There’s sunscreen lotion for your skin, but what should you do to protect your eyes? Here are 10 eyecare tips to keep your eyes healthy this summer.
1. Wear Sunglasses with Complete Ultraviolet Protection
Let’s start with the obvious one – sunglasses. You already know that you should protect your skin from ultraviolet radiation (UVR) and our eyes need similar protection. UVR comes from the sun and may also be reflected off surfaces such as water or sand.
The best way to protect your eyes from UVR exposure is to purchase and consistently wear sunglasses with 100-percent protection against both UVA and UVB rays, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Many inexpensive brands of sunglasses offer this protection, so you have a wide variety of choices. Remember to wear them even on cloudy days.
The Medical Details: Too much exposure to UVR can cause photokeratitis or photo conjunctivitis (more commonly known as “snow blindness”) in the short-term. Continual UVR exposure, particularly exposure to UVB rays, may cause cataracts development, pterygium (a non-cancerous growth over the cornea) or skin cancer of the eyelids.
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2. Use Goggles at the Pool
The chlorine, designed to protect you from exposure to germs, has the potential to hurt your eyes. The simplest solution for protection is to wear goggles every time you go swimming in a pool. This also applies to swimming in the ocean or other natural bodies of water, as they contain other contaminants that may hurt your eyes.
The Medical Details: A recent study revealed that frequent exposure to chlorine negatively affects the integrity of your corneal epithelium. The epithelium provides a layer of protection to your cornea from irritants and pathogens. If that protection is compromised, you have an increased likelihood of corneal abrasion or other eye injuries.
3. Wash Hands and Avoid Rubbing Your Eyes
Studies indicate that the best way to protect yourself from the spread of communicable disease is simply to wash your hands on a regular basis. This practice is crucial to avoid contracting eye-related conditions such as conjunctivitis. You often develop conjunctivitis after touching something that someone else has touched after they rubbed their eyes.
After any eye surgery such as LASIK or cataract surgery, your eyes are more susceptible to infection. The Centers for Disease Control suggests that you wash your hands thoroughly before you apply any treatments to your eyes, and avoid rubbing your eyes as much as possible. When you have conjunctivitis, be sure to wash your hands after putting in eye drops or ointment, to avoid spreading the disease to others.
4. Wear Hats
Even if you wear sunglasses every time you go outside, you are not offering complete UVR protection to your eyes and eyelids. Sunglasses usually have gaps along the sides where UVR exposure occurs. While you wear your sunglasses, minimize your risk and add a hat with a brim at least 3 inches wide. Consistent use of hats and sunglasses significantly decrease your UVR exposure.
The Medical Details: Basal cell carcinoma (BCC) is a form of skin cancer that typically affects the eyelids, according to the Skin Cancer Foundation. While it most commonly occurs on the lower eyelid, the site of most frequent exposure, it can also develop in the corners of the eye or under the eyebrows. While BCC does not usually spread to other parts of the body, it can certainly spread to the eye itself.
5. Protect Against Chemicals
While people are more likely to sustain chemical burns to their eyes while at work, there are several opportunities to hurt your eyes in non-occupational tasks, as well.
Hand or body soap bubbles that pop near your eyes
Spray paint that blows back into your face
Splashing cleaning solutions
These are all circumstances which can cause a chemical burn on your eyes; some more severe than others. You can prevent chemical exposure by taking appropriate precautions. Wear protective goggles or protective eyewear whenever you are working with any kind of toxic chemicals. Take care to handle solutions delicately, so that they do not splash.
The Medical Details: A 2013 analysis of chemical exposure claimed that eye-related chemical burns represent a serious ocular emergency that can ultimately cause serious damage or blindness. The CDC says 2,000 workers a day in the U.S. sustain an eye-related injury.
6. Keep Children Safe and Start Young with Eye Protection
Too many people realize in adulthood that they should have thought of protecting their eyes when they were young. It is never too early to start with your children, however. The World Health Organization notes that as much as 80 percent of a person’s lifetime UVR exposure occurs prior to the age of 18. That is because children are far more likely to spend time playing outside, particularly during the warmer months. Thankfully, the solution is much the same as it is for adults. Apply regular sunscreen, particularly on your child’s face. Add a hat with a wide brim and comfortable sunglasses.
The Medical Details: A child’s ocular lenses do not filter out UV light as efficiently as an adult’s, according to The Vision Council. This means that children can sustain eye damage more readily.
7. Wear eye protection during outdoor activities
If you have ever had dust or sand in your eye, you know that chemical exposure is not the only environmental threat to your eyes. You should try to protect yourself, as much as practically possible, from contact with foreign bodies that can cause abrasions to your eye.
Most corneal injuries heal in a day or two without too much pain or difficulty. However, some environments, such as woodworking or yard work, present a higher risk of long-term injury. Always look to prevention first, through the use of glasses or other personal protective equipment to shield your face and eyes from potential damage. Remember that certain medical eye conditions, such as chronic dry eyes, increase your risk of corneal abrasion.
8. Eat Healthy and Drink Plenty of Water
You may be surprised to learn that what you eat has the power to affect how well you see. It’s not just carrots.
There are many foods rich in nutrients that improve your eyesight and help prevent the development of long-term vision problems. Lutein and zeaxanthin are antioxidants known to help resist macular degeneration and cataracts. Adding a supplement or foods high in Vitamin C, Vitamin E and zinc can assist those with symptoms of age-related macular degeneration; they help slow or prevent the progression of symptoms.
Additionally, during the summer, people are more likely to become dehydrated, which can affect their eyes. Serious dehydration makes it harder for the body to produce tears, leading to dry eye symptoms and other vision problems. Drinking plenty of water each day can prevent and reverse many of the negative effects of dehydration, as well as providing fluid for normal eye function.
9. Use eye drops
If you have allergies that make your eyes feel tired or excessively dry, you may also benefit from eye drops. However, you should also consult a qualified ophthalmologist to discuss a chronic need for eye drops. Dry eye symptoms may arise from temporary exposure to contaminants, or they could be a sign of something more serious.
10. Get Adequate Sleep
Although you know how important it is to get a good night’s rest, you may find it hard to get the sleep you need, particularly with a busy lifestyle. However, your eyes are counting on you to be rested.
In 2008, researchers discovered that people who have been awake as little as 18 hours start to suffer decreased cognition on visual tasks. This might not seem like a big problem until you realize that you need visual acuity to drive safely or attend to potentially dangerous activities like cooking or caring for children. Additionally, when you are tired, your eyes are more likely to feel dry. This encourages you to rub your eyes to stimulate the lacrimal gland, which increases the likelihood of exposure to irritants and diseases. The best way you can keep yourself alert and safe is to aim for a full night of sleep every night.
By taking a proactive approach to eye care during the hot summer months, you can minimize the amount of time you need professional eye care.