– a guest column by Diana Canto Sims, O.D. –
Many of us look forward to enjoying the summer sun. Whether it be lounging on the beach or attending a great sports event, we love the summer season and the warm rays summer brings us.
It is important however to remind ourselves that we need to protect our eyes from harmful UV radiation from the sun. Just like our skin is susceptible to sunburn and cancer, our eyes are also at risk of developing these conditions.
Let’s take a look at some of these risks:
We are all born with a lens inside each eye. With age and exposure to harmful sunlight this lens clouds causing vision loss and even blindness if not treated. Women have been found to be intrinsically more susceptible for developing cataracts due to the fact that they tend to live longer than men and are more at risk for developing them. Smoking, diet and sun exposure can increase your chances of cataracts.
2. Skin Cancer and Melanoma of the Eyelids.
According to Emily Tierney, MD, and C. William Hanke, MD, MPH from the Skin Cancer Foundation, the eyelid region is one of the most common sites for non-melanoma skin cancers. In fact, skin cancers of the eyelid, including basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma, and melanoma, account for five to 10 percent of all skin cancers.
3. Keratitis, or Corneal Sunburn.
Excessive exposure to harmful UV rays from the sun can literally burn the cornea. The cornea is the eye’s clear refracting surface that admits light and images to the retina.
4. Pterygiums and Pinguecula.
A pterygium (tuh-RIJ-ee-uhm) is an elevated, wedged-shaped growth of the scleral conjunctiva that invades the cornea. Pterygia are non-cancerous growths, but they contain blood vessels and can form scar tissue that can permanently disfigure the eye.
A pinguecula (pin-GWEK-yoo-lah) is a yellowish, slightly raised thickening of the conjunctiva on the white part of the eye (sclera), close to the edge of the cornea.
Both these conditions are a result of the sun damaging tissue due to chronic harmful UV exposure.
5. Wrinkles, Crinkles and Crow’s Feet, Oh My!
While we mostly relate these to signs of ageing, your exposure to harmful UV rays can accelerate these. Some factors that contribute to wrinkles around the eye area, better known as crow’s feet, are sun exposure, smoking, and menopause. Sun exposure may be the most significant factor. Over time, solar radiation in the form of UVA light damages elastin and collagen leading to lax skin that hangs loosely instead of clinging tight to the underlying muscles. The result is sagging, wrinkled skin around the eye area.
While you’re enjoying the summer sun rays consider the following to protect your eyes from harmful sun rays: Most wrinkles, crinkles and crow’s feet are caused by sun exposure throughout life – and it’s never too late to halt the process.
6. Protect your Eyes during Sports this Summer.
More than 90 percent of all eye injuries can be prevented with the use of appropriate protective eyewear. Not all eyewear is protective eyewear. Remember, sunglasses block light – not elbows and objects. Frames and lenses should be specifically designed to protect against impact and tested to meet or exceed the strictest ANSI (American National Standards Institute) standards. Not only will they help us see and perform better, they will protect our precious eyes from harmful UV rays and flying objects.
What can we do to help prevent these conditions?
– Avoid excessive harmful sun exposure from UV rays.
– Always wear sunglasses with 100 percent UV protection. Reflective surfaces such as water reflect harmful UV rays, effectively doubling exposure. Polarized lenses are a plus because they reduce glare caused by sunlight protecting your vision even further. When choosing sunglasses consider a pair that fits comfortably, close to your face, and wraps around the sides of your eyes protecting your peripheral vision as well.
– Wear protective sun wear when playing sports, especially if these sports are considered a high-to-moderate risk of eye injury.
– Wear sunscreen and moisturizer approved to apply around the delicate area around the eyes approved by the FDA.
– Wear a functional hat. Not only can this be your fashion statement for the summer but in addition when used in conjunction with your sunglasses it will protect your eyes, face and hair from harmful UV rays.
-Seek shade this summer. Temperatures are cooler in the shade and the harmful UV rays are less powerful. This will protect you from skin cancer, melanomas, sunburns, and help prevent cataracts and wrinkles!
-Schedule a comprehensive eye exam with your eyecare professional to make sure your eyes are healthy and for guidance on what eye protection is right for you.
So there you have it! Protect your vision and you precious eyes while looking fabulous this summer.
About Diana Canto Sims, O.D.
Diana is the founder of Buena Vista Optical, P.C., an award winning retail optical and optometric clinic in Chicago, IL. Born in Chicago to immigrant parents from Puerto Rico and Mexico, she received her undergraduate and Doctorate of Optometry degree in Puerto Rico.
Her passion is people and business. She has had an entrepreneurial spirit since the age of 8 working in her parent’s bakery in the Pilsen neighborhood of Chicago. One of her first businesses at the age of 15 was designing and selling her own line of hair accessories.
She is a member of the Illinois Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, National Association of Woman Business Owners, graduate of the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Business Owners and proud mother of two boys.