As part of Sun Awareness Week, we’re examining the dangers of UV rays and what individuals can do to protect themselves as we approach the warmer summer months. It is estimated that over three million people go blind each year from cataracts caused or enhanced by exposure to the sun. Our eyes are one of the most delicate organs in our bodies and yet many of us take them for granted. On top of this, it’s also important to acknowledge the other dangers than sun can pose.
Types of UV rays
UV radiation is a central element of solar radiation. There are three types of UV rays: UVA, UVB and UVC.
UVC rays are the most damaging but are absorbed by the Earth’s atmosphere before they reach us and are not a direct threat, whilst UVA and UVB rays can have serious long- and short-term effects on the eyes and our vision.
Most common eye problems caused by UV rays
The leading cause of age-related blindness, macular degeneration is the direct result of prolonged damage to the retina. While the condition affects your central vision and what you are able to see when you look straight ahead, it generally does not affect your peripheral vision and does not lead to complete blindness. Sight loss is mostly gradual, but in some instances, can happen more rapidly.
Cataracts are a progressive clouding of the eye’s natural lens and core focusing mechanism. UVB rays in particular increase your risk of developing certain types of cataracts, although these can be treated with surgery.
Often called surfer’s eye, pterygium (tuh-RIJ-ee-uhm) is a non-cancerous, often fleshy coloured growth that forms on the layer of conjunctiva, over the white area (sclera) of your eye and can invade the cornea. As UV light is believed to be a main factor in the formation of these growths, it is commonly linked to surfers who spend long periods in the sun and are subjected to both direct and reflected UV rays. That does not mean, however, that non-surfers will not stand a chance of developing pterygium.
Also known as corneal sunburn or snow blindness, photokeratitis is the result of high short-term exposure to UVB rays.
Ways to keep safe in the sun
Protecting Your Eyes
Sunglasses are the most efficient way of protecting your eyes against UV rays. We stock a wide selection of designer sunglasses that are both stylish and protect your eyes against the sun. Make sure that your sunglasses are appropriately labelled and offer at least 99% UV protection. Glasses with larger and darker coloured lenses offer maximum protection against UV rays.
Using Sun Block
SPF labels were first introduced in the 70s and sunblock became the primary form of skin protection. SPF stands for sun protection factor and indicates the level of protection against the UVB rays that cause sunburn.
If you plan on taking part in activities that are water-based, or induce heavy sweating, opt for sun block that is water resistant. If possible, stay in the shade when the sun is at its hottest, usually around midday to mid-afternoon.
Planning on lazing out in the sun? We recommend you sit under a large sun umbrella/parasol, as they usually offer enough shade to cover most of your body. A regular umbrella is also a great sun blocking device if you’re planning on spending long hours of the day walking around out in the open.
It’s also advisable to wear loose, light coloured clothing made of breathable fabric such as silk or cotton that covers your arms and legs. Avoid synthetic fabrics, including nylon and viscose, that do not allow your skin to breathe. Wearing a large oversized hat will give you additional shade and help to protect your face, neck and upper shoulders.
Be ready for summer well in advance and browse our range of designer sunglasses. If you’re not ready to buy them now, pin them to your wish list for later.