Eye Health: Can Eyes Get Sunburned?

It’s summertime! You’re probably doing more outdoor activities and enjoying the warm weather. One thing to remember is when you’re at the beach, working in your garden, or relaxing in your hammock, sunrays are beaming down on you. And if you’re out from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., the American Skin Association says  exposure to UV rays is greatest during that time .

Did you know UV rays can be just as harmful to your eyes as they are to your skin? Just like your skin, your eyes can be sunburned from excessive exposure to the sun. It’s called photokeratitis. Photokeratitis is like having a sunburned eye.

Symptoms of photokeratitis can include:

 - red eyes

 - a foreign body sensation or gritty feeling in the eyes

 - extreme sensitivity to light

 - excessive tearing

 - pain

 - redness

 - blurriness

 - swelling

 - headache

 - seeing halos

 - small pupils

 - eyelid twitching

 - rarely, temporary vision loss

The longer your eyes are exposed to UV rays, the more severe photokeratitis symptoms may be. The good news is these symptoms aren’t permanent.

How do you protect your eyes from the harsh rays of the sun?

Easy! Grab yourself a pair of stylish sunglasses or prescription glasses with light-to-dark lens tinting. If you don’t have vision insurance, don’t worry, you can enroll in a vision plan and get frames with light-to-dark lens tinting by visiting your eye doctor. Here are five eye care tips about how to avoid your eyes getting sunburned: 

  1. Look for 100% UVA/UVB Protection
    When shopping for new sunglasses, check out the sticker on the lens. You’re looking for a sticker that says 100% UVA/UVB or 40 NM. These types of lenses give you full protection against ultraviolet light.
  2. Wear Wide Sunglasses
    Bigger is better when it comes to shades. You’ll want to look for glasses that wrap around your face. Broader sunglasses will block more of the light that hits you from the side.
  3. Invest in Polarized Lenses
    Polarized lenses may cost more money, but they’re worth it. Because polarized lenses reduce glare, they’re great for when you spend a lot of time on the water.
  4. Make Sure Your Kids Have Eye Protection
    If you have children, don’t forget to protect their eyes, too. Most of the damage done to our eyes is done by the time we’re in our 20s.
  5. Wear Eye Protection, Even on Cloudy Days
    Don’t let clouds, rain, or an overcast fool you. It’s a common misconception that you don’t need sunglasses when the weather is gloomy. If it’s daylight, there are always UV rays coming from the sun.

Protect your eyes just like you protect your skin. When you put sunscreen on, make it a habit to put your sunglasses on, too. For those who regularly wear glasses, you may also want to think about using your VSP Individual Vision Plan to buy prescription sunglasses.



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