EYES AND THE SUN

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EYES AND THE SUN

July 20, 2020

Not sleeping well? As we age, some become more apt to insomnia. Did you know that getting a little natural light every day will help you sleep well? The light-sensitive cells in our eyes play an important role in our body's natural wake-sleep cycles. Spending time outdoors in the daylight can also help prevent near-sightedness in kids. Healthy exposure to sunlight can have positive effects, as long as you protect your eyes from UV damage.

Who’s at Risk for UV Damage? Everyone…especially children. The American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO) reports people with light colored eyes, certain eye diseases or who take photosensitizing medications are also at higher risk from UV radiation.

Children
Children require special protection as they are at a higher risk of suffering damage from exposure to UV radiation than adults. A child's skin is thinner and more sensitive and even a short time outdoors in the midday sun can result in serious burns.

Child with light blue color eyes

Light-Colored Eyes
People with light colored eyes (blue, green or hazel) may have an increased risk of certain eye diseases tied to UV exposure, including eye cancer. Some studies show that people with certain eye diseases such as retinal dystrophy may be at greater risk for UV-related sun damage.

Cataract Patients
Over two million people have cataract surgery each year. During cataract removal procedure, the eye's lens is removed, leaving the eye more vulnerable to UV light. The natural lens is usually replaced by an intraocular lens (IOL). Older intraocular lenses absorb much less UV light than ordinary glass or plastic eyeglass lenses. Manufacturers of IOLs now make most of their products UV-absorbent.

Photosensitizing Drugs
Taking photosensitizing drugs can make your skin and eyes more sensitive to light. Some of the drugs that may increase your risk of UV sensitivity include:

  • Antibiotics containing fluoroquinolone and tetracycline (including doxycycline and Cipro)
  • Certain birth control and estrogen pills (including Lovral and premarin)
  • Phenothiazine (an anti-malarial)
  • Psoralens (used in treating psoriasis)
  • Anti-inflammatory pain relievers like ibuprofen and naproxen sodium have also been shown to cause photosensitivity, though the reaction is rare.

Additionally, sunlight reflected off sand and water can cause photokeratitis, the condition responsible for snow blindness, so beach- and pool-goers take note. Everyone is at risk for sun damage, however by following these recommendations you can enjoy the summer safely while lowering your risk for potentially blinding eye diseases and tumors.

  • Wear sunglasses that provide 100% UV protection, or that block both UV-A and UV-B rays. Polarized sunglasses are even better as they offer virtually an invisible filter to eliminate the amount of reflecting light that enters the eye.
  • Wear a broad brimmed hat along with your sunglasses.
  • Never look directly at the sun. Doing so at any time, including during an eclipse, can damage the eye's retina and cause a serious injury known as solar retinopathy.
  • Avoid tanning beds as they pose the same risks to your eyes and body as outdoor UV light.

By embracing these simple guidelines, you and your family can enjoy the sun safely not just during the summer but also all year long. If it’s been more than a year since your last eye exam or you are experiencing changes in your vision, contact Shofner Vision Center to schedule a comprehensive exam or call (615) 340-4733.

EYES AND THE SUN

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