The summer season is about having fun under the sun. While it’s all fun to play outdoors, prolonged exposure to the sun could bring you eye trouble.
According to Asian Eye Institute’s cornea and external disease specialist Dr. Sharlene Noguera, the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays cause serious damage to the eyes.
“Long-term sun exposure can have short-term or longterm effects on the eye. These UV rays can affect the cornea or the clear front window of the eye, which causes growths on the eyes. They can also pass through the cornea and affect the back part of the eye, usually the lens and the retina.”
Among the eye diseases and conditions that people need to look out for are photokeratitis or corneal sunburn, pterygium, cataracts and age-related macular degeneration (AMD).
Photokeratitis is often a result of spending long hours at the beach or skiing without eye protection. It can be painful and may cause temporary vision loss.
Cataract is the clouding of the natural lens of the eye, causing blurry vision. If left undetected or untreated, it may lead to blindness.
Meanwhile, AMD involves the loss of central vision. For people with AMD, it is as if they are seeing a black hole at the center. It is caused by the growth of weak blood vessels that leak blood in the retina.
“Filipinos love going to the beach, but they don’t know that UV levels are higher in open spaces,” says Noguera. “Aside from UV rays from the sun, reflected UV rays are also dangerous. UV rays can be reflected off surfaces like water, sand and pavements, so beach lovers, surfers and even those who like boating are at higher risk.”
While wearing sunglasses is a good idea when it comes to eye protection, it is important to note that not all sunglasses are the same.
Noguera advises: “Make sure to get sunglasses from a reputable retailer. They should be able to block 100% of UV rays. A pair of wraparound sunglasses or those with large lenses can help cover your eyes. For those with blurry vision, you can ask your optometrist for UV-coated contact lenses or prescription glasses.”
She also urges parents to protect their children’s eyes.
“Children are not immune to sun damage. Their natural lenses are clearer than adults’, so they absorb more UV doses. Their natural lenses also transmit more UV radiation to the retina,” she adds.