Column: Protect your eyes from the summer sun

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Commentary by Matthew Clark, OD

As the warming weather begins to draw you toward your favorite pool chair, par 3, playground or park this summer, don’t forget to protect your eyes from the sun’s harmful ultraviolet light. Short-term UV can cause uncomfortable sunburn on the surface of the eye, while long-term exposure can cause irreversible damage, including cataracts and macular degeneration. Here are a few protective measures to shield your eyes this summer.

  • The first is obvious. Sunglasses! Sunglasses protect your peepers by filtering out harmful UV rays. However, not all sunwear is created equally. Polarization is king, blocking 100 percent of damaging UV. Sunglasses without UV protection are particularly bad, as they cause your pupils to widen, allowing even more ultraviolet light into the eye. Wondering whether your current sunglasses are polarized? Take a look at your phone or a computer monitor and tilt your head side-to-side. If the colors change, your sunglasses are good to go! Some non-polarized sunglasses may still offer UV protection via lens material or coatings.
  • If you’re a contact lens wearer and you spend a lot of time outside, tell your eye doctor you would like to try some contact lenses with built-in UV protection. Contact lenses will not protect your entire eye from the sun, but some brands filter up to 97% of UV light. Kids who play outdoor sports will especially benefit from this great technology.
  • If you wear glasses most days and don’t want to switch back and forth from glasses to sunglasses, put an anti-glare coating on your lenses with UV protection in them. It’s comparable to putting SPF 50 sunscreen on your eyes, but it’ll certainly sting less.

So get out there and enjoy your summer! And next time you’re applying the sunscreen, think also about how you’re protecting your eyes.

Dr. Matthew Clark, O.D., practices at Carmel Eyecare. For more, email him at mclark@carmeleyecare.com.

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