Whether you want to look cool like Schwarzenegger in The Terminator or suave like Tom Cruise in his Top Gun aviators, that’s only half the equation when it comes to sunglasses. Protecting your eyes now can save you from vision problems in the future.
Sunny days are here, and you should be doing more to protect yourself from harmful UV rays than just putting on sunscreen. Sunshine can also harm your eyes, so protecting them should also be a priority.
What UV Rays Can Do to Your Eyes
The sun’s ultraviolet rays are a type of radiation. Too much exposure to them is bad for your skin and your eyes. Unlike your skin, which you can slather with sunscreen, your eyes are completely defenseless.
If you think it’s safe to head out for a day at the beach without your sunglasses, check out the following list of effects overexposure to the sun can have on your eyes:
- Cataracts: There are over 200,000 cases of cataracts per year in the U.S. alone. While genetics and age play a role, ultraviolet exposure is a compounding factor. Why risk getting cataracts if you won the genetic lottery and could otherwise avoid them?
- Corneal sunburn: Keratitis, which is more commonly referred to as corneal sunburn, is more prevalent in the winter. This is because the UV rays from the sun are reflected off of snow and ice, causing “snow blindness.” It’s not a winter-only problem, however, as water-reflection can also be an issue. Even if you rarely wear shades at the beach, do throw them on whenever you hit the water to go party boating or fishing.
- Macular degeneration: This damage to the central part of the retina contributes to vision loss. While you might not be diagnosed with this until you’re over 60, it’s the cumulative effects of UV rays throughout your life that lead to it.
- Conjunctival cancer: Just as UV rays can cause skin cancer, eye cancer is a risk as well. Conjunctival squamous cell carcinoma is occurring more often in older folks.
How to Protect Your Eyes
Protecting your eyes is pretty easy—just wear sunglasses! Of course, not all sunglasses are created equal. A cheap pair from a Dollar store might not provide the proper protection.
Look for sunglasses that will protect you from both UVA and UVB rays. You want a minimum of 99 percent protection.
Here are a few other things you can do to protect your eyes:
- Wear a brimmed hat without holes: A brim that extends three or more inches over the front of your face will help block some UV rays. It won’t prevent them all from reaching your eyes, though, so you’ll still want to wear your sunglasses.
- Spend more time in the shade: This will block out even more of those harmful rays.
Don’t get lax on your eye protection during the winter. Snow can reflect more of the sun’s rays and cause even more damage.
It’s helpful to keep a pair of sunglasses in your vehicle because your windshield might not block all the harmful rays. Keep a pair in your backpack, bag, or purse, as well, so you’ll always be prepared.