Summer has officially arrived in Alberta, and people of all ages are excited to get outside. While most Albertans recognize the importance of sunscreen to prevent sunburns and skin cancer, many are unaware that UV light can cause serious eye damage.
Summer has officially arrived in Alberta, and people of all ages are excited to get outside. While most Albertans recognize the importance of sunscreen to prevent sunburns and skin cancer, many are unaware that UV light can cause serious eye damage. In fact, overexposure to UV rays has been linked to a variety of eye problems, one of which is cataracts, a condition where the normally clear lens of the eye becomes cloudy and opaque.
Cataracts are the leading cause of blindness in the world and affect 3.2 million Canadians. The symptoms can vary from extremely small areas of cloudiness to large opaque areas that cause a noticeable blurring of vision. The development of cataracts depends on many factors including aging, family history, an injury or disease, but research shows that exposure to UV radiation is also a major risk factor.
Much like a sunburn on your skin, UV light is absorbed by the tissue of the eye, causing temporary pain and discomfort, and long-term detrimental effects on the health of your eyes. Exposure to UV is cumulative, but while some of the damage has already been done, it's never too late to take action. Preventing direct contact with sunlight, even for short periods of time, can help prevent long-term eye problems at any age.
Here are some UV tips to help keep your eyes safe from cataracts and other eye diseases:
Avoid sources of UV radiation: Don't stare directly at the sun and be aware of reflections from snow, water, sand and pavement.
Protect your eyes: Wear sunglasses that are 100% UV blocking against both UVA and UVB rays, and are close-fitting with a wrap-around style frame to help keep light out. If you wear corrective contact lenses, consider wearing UV-blocking contact lenses for an added layer of UV protection.
Stay informed: Get regular eye exams to monitor eye health, maintain good vision and keep up-to-date on the latest in UV protection (Check out the UV Canada smartphone app for up-to-date info on UV radiation in your area).
Follow the 10-4 rule: Keep out of direct sunlight between 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., when the sun's rays are strongest.
Your Doctor of Optometry can make specific recommendations to ensure your eyes are well-protected and fit you for your perfect pair of sunglasses. In addition, a comprehensive eye exam can identify early onset of eye-health conditions related to UV that may not have apparent symptoms.
Husam Tarrabain is a Doctor of Optometry at Custom Eyes, in Edmonton. For more information, and to find an optometrist near you, visit www.optometrists.ab.ca