Sun Exposure and the Risk of Eye Diseases
Eye diseases affect ocular health and increase the risk of vision loss. While some eye diseases are unavoidable, several factors leave a person more vulnerable to certain ocular conditions. For instance, sun exposure impacts the risk of eye diseases due to the sun’s harsh UV rays, but that doesn’t mean people need to avoid the sun altogether.
The sun can benefit the eyes in several ways, provided appropriate precautions are taken. Dr. Walter Choate advises patients from Nashville, TN, Goodlettsville, TN, and Hendersonville, TN, of the potential risks of sun exposure and offers tips for reaping the benefits of sunlight without increasing the risk of eye diseases.
Is Sun Exposure Bad for the Eyes?
Sunlight itself is not bad for the eyes, but the UV rays it emits are harmful. Sunlight can be beneficial to the eyes, provided they are not exposed to UV rays. Spending time in the daylight has been shown to help prevent nearsightedness in children. Exposure to sunlight also helps regulate a person’s sleep cycle. Light-sensitive tissues in the eyes affect the body’s natural wake-sleep cycle. Sunlight tells the body it is time to be awake, and darkness prepares the body for sleep. The sleep cycle can be thrown off without exposure to daylight.
How The Sun Affects the Risk of Eye Diseases
For all the benefits sunlight provides, there are dangers to consider as well. The sun emits UV rays that can be damaging to the eyes. UV rays alter the proteins of the eye’s lens. Long and short-term sun exposure can damage the eyes and cause or worsen certain eye diseases and ocular conditions. Without protection from UV rays, the eyes face an increased risk of the following ocular health problems:
- Sunburned eyes
- Growths on or near the eyes
- Eye cancer
- Photokeratitis (snow blindness)
- Macular degeneration
Without treatment, harm caused by UV rays can ultimately lead to vision loss or total blindness.
UV risks depend on several different factors, including how long the eyes are exposed to UV rays, the time of day, the altitude, geographic location, and the use of certain medications that make a person more sensitive to UV radiation.
Protecting the Eyes from Harsh UV Rays
It can be scary to think about the potential risks of UV rays. Fortunately, it is possible to protect the eyes from UV damage without locking yourself indoors. Several safety precautions allow people to enjoy the benefits of sunlight while minimizing the risk of UV damage. We recommend the following sun safety tips:
- Wear sunglasses when outdoors. Be sure to select sunglasses that provide 100% UV or UV400 protection.
- Do not neglect UV protection on cloudy days. UV rays can pass through clouds and fog.
- Wear a broad-brimmed hat along with sunglasses.
- When outdoors, look for shady spots to take a break from the sun.
- Limit sun exposure between 10 am and 4 pm when UV rays are strongest.
- Never look directly at the sun.
At Choate Eye Associates, Dr. Walter Choate offers a comprehensive range of eye care services to preserve ocular health and vision. If you are interested in learning more about the services we provide, including treatment for common eye diseases, contact our practice at your earliest convenience.