(WKBN) – With summer approaching, we’ll need to start taking steps to protect ourselves from the sun.
It’s pretty common knowledge to wear sunscreen — not just when you go to the pool or beach, but all the time. The sun has harmful UV rays that can damage our skin and cause cancer.
But it can do the same to our eyes. Too much exposure to the sun can have short-term and long-term effects, including cataracts, eyelid cancer, macular degeneration and corneal sunburn.
Macular degeneration happens when the lens covering of your eye becomes warped and distorts the center of your vision.
Corneal sunburn is just as it sounds — sunburn in your eye.
Protecting your vision, though, is pretty simple. All you need is sunglasses with UVA and UVB protection and a hat with a brim.
If you wear contacts or glasses, most protect against the sun’s rays.
Just because we live in a part of the country that’s often cloudy doesn’t mean those UV rays can’t damage our eyes.
“They are dangerous because they do come through the clouds,” said Darcy Downie, regional director of Prevent Blindness. “Many times, people will go outside without sunscreen on because it’s a cloudy day and they still can get sunburned. So those rays do penetrate through the cloud cover, even in northeast Ohio.”
Children are among those at highest risk because they are still developing.
If something is wrong with their vision, most children don’t know. Kids tend to just accept their vision the way it is.
Downie said one child who needed glasses left the eye doctor’s appointment saying how clear the leaves on the trees were instead of just green blobs.
Kids are also more at risk because of blue light exposure, which is essentially the same as sunlight but weaker.
Blue light comes from electronic devices, which kids tend to hold close to their faces.
“Many times people don’t think that children need the sunglasses, but children have a tendency, even with blue light, to get more of that light into their eyes than adults do,” Downie said. “A child can’t also say, number one, ‘I can’t see clearly’ because they accept what it is and they can’t say, ‘Oh the sun is bothering my eyes’ because they just sometimes accept that’s just the way it is. They can’t communicate, especially the younger children, if something is wrong with their eyes.”
It’s not just direct sunlight that can harm your eyes either. Sun glaring off the water, snow or streets can also be harmful.
For all of these reasons, it’s a good idea to wear sunglasses and a hat when you go outside.