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5 Steps to Healthy Vision
An eye on eye health
Every summer we pay special attention to protect your skin against harmful UV rays and risk of skin cancer. But the summer months are also prime time for keeping an eye on eye health.
With more time outdoors, there is increased exposure to bright sunlight and the elements. Just like skin, the sensitive tissues of the eyes can burn. Whether from a day at the beach or an afternoon at a sporting event, prolonged sun exposure can lead to cornea burns. You won’t experience any symptoms at first, but overexposure can later cause excruciating pain. Too much UV light exposure can also lead to formation and acceleration of cataracts, growths on the eye and ocular cancer.
So what can you do to protect your eyes and vision?
3 quick tips for eye protection
1. Always wear sun protection.
The first step is to pay special attention to the sunglasses you wear. Most sunglasses protect against UVB rays, but many will also protect against UVA. Lenses that protect against both should be labeled “UV400” or “100% UV protection.” Lenses that are polarized will also help block sun glare. Don’t underestimate the benefit from a nice hat as well. The shade provided by the brim of a hat will also aid in the protection of your eyes from the sun. The broader the brim, the better your protection.
FYI, the sun’s rays are strongest from mid-day to early afternoon. They can penetrate through clouds and cause damage any time of the year. Sunlight reflecting off of water and snow can also affect your eyes. Protecting your eyes from the sun should be a focus all year long.
2. Beware of summer chemical exposures.
Improperly balanced pool chemicals can take a toll on your eyes. Exposure to chlorine can result in pain, redness and stinging. It rarely causes any long term complications with your vision, but the discomfort can be avoided. If you are exposed to high levels of chlorine or improperly balanced pool water, rinse your eyes as soon as possible with clean water. If redness or stinging persists for several hours, contact your Methodist Physicians Clinic provider or ophthalmologist for evaluation.
Also, use caution when applying sunscreen and other skin protectants to your face – this includes bug spray. The chemicals in these products can be extremely irritating to the delicate tissues of your eyes and can lead to chemical burns and damage to your cornea.
The natural chemicals seen in summer plant life can also lead to vision damage. The oils from poison ivy, oak or sumac can be very painful. If you accidentally expose your eyes to these oils, wash as soon as possible.
3. Eye protection is a must when working on home projects.
Summer is a great time to work on projects around your home, so be sure to invest in eye protection – a good pair of professional quality goggles. Sunglasses or regular glasses aren’t enough to protect your eyes.
Corneal lacerations from sawdust, flying metal, splinters of wood or other byproducts of home or outdoor work projects can be very painful and require surgical intervention. Metal is especially dangerous, as even a small piece can rust quickly and cause permanent damage.
If you get debris in your eye, wash it thoroughly with clean water. If you have pain, use an ice pack right away. Any major injury or change in vision should prompt a visit to your eye doctor, primary care provider or emergency room depending on its severity.
4. Summer sports are also a risk for eye injuries.
The smaller the ball, the higher the risk. Golf balls, paintballs, baseballs and softballs are notorious for eye injuries. The U.S. Eye Injury Registry says five percent of all eye injuries are from baseballs!
Helmets with eye protection, molded face masks and sport goggles are excellent ways to protect your eyes while playing sports.
5. Prepare for the unexpected.
Summer is an active time of year and the risks can be impossible to predict. Flying water balloons, snapping bungee cords, steam from faulty car radiators, beach sand and roughhousing with friends are all common but preventable risks for summer eye injuries.
Don’t forget about fireworks!
An unfortunately common and extremely preventable summer eye injury stems from fireworks. Almost 9,000 people a year fall victims to firework-related injuries. The American Academy of Ophthalmology says more than 2,000 of these injuries are eye related, with a third resulting in permanent eye damage.
Take the extra steps to protect your eye health. Have a safe and injury-free summer!