July is UV Safety Awareness Month, and no wonder! With the summer sun out in full force, it’s now more important than ever to protect your eyes from harmful UV rays.
During this month, people who have suffered from UV ray damage and their loved ones are encouraged to share their experiences and advice. Use the hashtag #UVSafetyAwareness on your social media channels to support others in your community.
Did You Know?
Your eyes can get sunburned. It isn’t only your skin that’s at risk, but your eyes, too. When your cornea is exposed to too much UV radiation, a condition known as keratitis can occur. Keratitis can actually cause a temporary loss of vision, often after using a tanning bed or being out in the sun too long. UV radiation can also cause small growths on the white part of your eye, which are called pterygium and pinguecula. They can make your eyes feel dry, irritated, and scratchy.
If you experience any of these symptoms, Helfrich Family Eye Care can help.
UV ray exposure is a risk factor for eye conditions and diseases. In 20% of cataract cases, cataract growth has been linked to UV ray damage. Cataracts develop when the normally clear lens of the eye becomes cloudy. UVA rays are a known risk factor for macular degeneration – the leading cause of blindness in people over the age of 65. Macular degeneration occurs when the macula of the eye, which is responsible for clear central vision becomes damaged. It’s critical to be aware of UV ray exposure, especially if you or a family member are in this age group.
What Exactly Are UV Rays?
You may have heard about UV rays without knowing what they actually mean. UV stands for ultraviolet light. That’s a potentially harmful type of radiation, which is typically found in fluorescent lights, tanning booths. But its main source is from the sun, and it’s invisible to the naked eye, so you don’t even feel it as it touches your skin or body.
Why Are UV Rays Dangerous?
So why are they considered dangerous? Well, too much of a good thing isn’t really a good thing. Sunlight helps us make vitamin D, which is healthy. Too much sun exposure, though, can cause premature aging in the skin, burns in the eye, and may even change the shape of your cornea and other serious eye damage, leading to vision problems. It’s even more dangerous for younger people, especially children, because children's lenses are more transparent and transmit UV rays more easily.
If you or a loved one is experiencing vision problems or eye diseases, we can help. Dr. Melissa Helfrich sees patients from all over the Belleville, Illinois area, and can treat your condition with a number of advanced solutions. Regular eye exams and checkups are critical for keeping your vision healthy, especially during the summer.
UV Safety Can Go a Long Way
Thankfully, it’s pretty easy to protect yourself from long-term exposure to UV rays. Check out our top 3 UV safety tips:
- Put on Those Shades
Snag a pair of sunglasses with 100% UVA and UVB blocking power. Anything less than that won’t protect your eyes from harmful rays. Concerned about your look? Don’t worry, There are plenty of awesome sunglass designs, so you’ll protect your eyes without compromising on incredible style. Ask the optometrist which lens is best for you.
- Sunscreen and More Sunscreen
Mothers and doctors say it all the time, and with good reason! Use sunscreen before going outdoors and make sure it has a good SPF (Sun Protection Factor) number. If you’re in the water, reapply it every 2 hours. UV rays can reflect off of water, so if you’re hitting the pool or beach, take extra precautions.
- I Tip My Hat to You
Protect your head and the skin on your scalp with a hat. A wide-brimmed hat is best for a good amount of sun-blocking coverage, since it also protects the tops of your eyes which might not be shaded by your sunglasses, and is too sensitive for sunscreen. For the fashion-conscious, there are endless styles to choose from, so go shopping!
During this UV Safety Awareness Month, we encourage you to share your stories and successes. If you have any questions, Dr. Melissa Helfrich is here to help.