May: Ultraviolet Awareness Month & Protecting Your Peepers

I recently starting writing for the main student resource for current and future optometry students, www.optometrystudents.org. It allows me to communicate and help educate my fellow students and those who desire to be in the profession. As it is getting a little more sunny outside, and since May is Ultraviolet Awareness Month I wrote one of my first articles over protecting your eyes from the sun!

1. Be like Honey and wear the right type of sunglasses. You can buy sunglasses just about anywhere, however; just because sunglasses are dark doesn't mean they are protecting your eyes. To get maximum protection, sunglasses need to reduce glare and clearly state that they block 99 to (preferably) 100% of UVA and UVB rays. This is the only way to know you are protecting your eyes from the most harmful rays. Sunglasses that wrap around the side offer the most protection, but regardless - the more UV you keep out, the safer you are. Throw on a hat for bonus protection!

2. Contacts help too! Contact lenses do a great job of protecting the front part of the eye from UV rays, but not all contacts are made the same. Some brands block more UV than others, so it is worth asking your doc what UV protection yours are providing!  Important note, while the cornea (the clear, front layer of your eye) is protected by contacts, the conjunctiva (the part around the cornea that gets pink when it is infected or inflamed), eyelids, and surrounding facial structures are not! Doubling up contacts with sunglasses is super important.

3. Be aware that the clouds don’t help! Even on overcast days, the sun’s rays can pass through and cause damage, so don’t be fooled into leaving your sunglasses at home! This is especially important to note if you are around water or sand (or snow!) as they reflect the sun’s rays even more, potentially causing extra damage. 

4. If you have had cataract surgery, you need to be extra careful! Over a person’s life, the natural lens in the eye has been building up those annoying cataracts partially by kindly absorbing UV rays as protection to your retina (the back, inside part of the eye). Once a crystal clear intraocular lens (IOL) has been put in during surgery, UV rays may not be absorbed depending on the type of IOL inserted. Also worth asking your doctor about when discussing what type of lens will be inserted. Sunglasses and hats are especially important for post-cataract surgery patients as you are at heightened risk for damage from the sun reaching the retina. 

5. Don’t forget the sunscreen! We aren’t just worried about your eyes here. The American Academy of Dermatology recommends choosing a broad spectrum (UVA and UVB blocking), water resistant sunscreen with SPF 30 or higher, including on your face. Wearing sunscreen (and reapplying) on all sun exposed areas of the body is crucial to avoid developing skin cancer down the road.

Have a great week!

Caitlyn

If you want to see my original article you can find that here. If you are a real eye/medicine nerd here is my very first article over OCT-A