People don't always think about the dangers of ultra-violet rays. However, protecting yourself can be as simple as following a few tips. Nationally recognized, board-certified dermatologist Dr. Coyle Connolly, D.O, offered some insight into why it is important to prevent UV damage to your eyes and why wearing sunglasses is crucial.
Understanding the Danger of UV Rays
LTK: Are certain people more at risk for eye damage from UV then others?
Dr. C: All people are at risk for developing eye damage. Those who our outdoor-oriented, eg. sports, summer jobs, etc. are at greater risk. Those with light eyes, hair, and skin are most at risk for developing malignant melanoma, which is the most dangerous form of skin cancer.
LTK: What are some early warning signs of UVA or UVB damage to the eye?
Dr. C: Early signs of UVA/B damage are often undetected until the eyes are examined by an ophthalmologist using special equipment. There lies the problem. Chronic sun exposure leads to the insidious development of disease. Prevention is paramount. Blurry or poor vision represent later stages of disease. A darker changing "freckle," sometimes visible to the naked eye, may represent a malignant melanoma.
LTK: What are some of the life-threatening medical conditions that can occur as a result of UVA or UVB rays?
Dr. C: Malignant melanoma has the potential to spread to other areas of the body (metastasis) leading to death unless detected and treated early.
Most Dangerous Conditions
LTK: What hours of the day is the sun the most dangerous, and do you need sunglasses on a cloudy day?
Dr. C: The hours between 10:00 AM and 3:00 PM are the most dangerous. However, sunglasses should be worn during all daylight hours and even on cloudy days. Remember, 80% of UV radiation will reach a child even through clouds.
UV and Children's Eyes
LTK: Most people think about sunscreen for little kids, but not about their eyes. Why should they worry about a child's eyes?
Dr. C: UV has been shown to cause cataracts (clouding of the lens), pterygium (growths on the eye that effect vision), degeneration of the macula (decreased vision), and even skin cancer such as melanoma. The effects of the sun are cumulative, therefore protecting the eyes must begin in childhood.
Final Eye Protection Tips
LTK: What else can we do to protect our eyes?
Dr. C: Options include 100% UV protective lens (need to see labeling), broad brimmed hats, not staring directly at the sun (mom was right), glasses that conform to sides of temple (wraparound style), avoiding peak hours of sun when possible, finding shade whenever you can, teaching your children to have glasses on "just like mom or dad." In other words, parents should lead by example.
You can prevent further damage by using proper sun protection mentioned above. Once the eye lesions/conditions have become symptomatic, surgical intervention is often the only recourse.
More About Dr. Connolly
Dr. Connolly has spent the last 15 years studying the effects of UV radiation and has over 10 years of experience in the dermatology and cosmetic industry. He is committed to offering medically proven products and physician-approved procedures. He has written extensively about skin care, spoken to countless audiences across the country, and is frequently educating consumers about protecting your skin and eyes. For more about Dr. Connolly, pleae visit Connolly Skincare.