When it comes to staying safe in the sun we all know how to protect our skin, but what about our eyes?
Longer, lazy summer days entice people to enjoy more time outdoors, but whether we’re spending the day at the beach or just relaxing in the garden with a good book, we often forget to protect our eyes.
The eyes need the same care and attention as our skin during the summer months. Not only does the sun make the eyes more prone to infections and UV-related conditions such as photokeratitis (a painful eye condition - similar to a sunburn of the cornea - caused by exposure to UV light), it can also do permanent damage as UV rays deeply permeate the eye, causing damage to many structures.
Steve Schallhorn, chief medical director at Optical Express, reveals his top five summer eye care tips:
1. Always read the label
“Sunglasses that are dark or tinted may look like they will shade your eyes, but only 100 per cent UV-protected sunglasses will prevent your eyes from being exposed to harmful UV rays,” he said. “Overexposure can lead to eye disease, especially for those of us with light-coloured eyes as they are more sensitive to the rays. Without the UV factor protection carried by the CE mark – a European standard of UV protection – there is no eye health benefit to wearing sunglasses, so check for this seal of approval.”
If you are doing water sports, you need to take extra care by investing in a pair of polarised sunglasses. The lenses in these help reduce harsh glare from reflective surfaces, enabling you to see better during sunny days and further protecting your eyes.
2. Get some fresh air
Although we’re quick to turn on the air conditioning to cool us down as the mercury rises, this can lead to a syndrome known as ‘dry eye’ as air conditioning units remove all the moisture from the air.
“Common symptoms are persistent dryness, scratchiness, red eyes and a burning sensation,” he warns. “Avoid this by getting plenty of fresh air and only having the air conditioning on for short bursts of time.”
3. Blink more often
“The eye is surrounded by fluid, which protects it by washing away debris and dust every time we blink,” he explains. “Dry air can carry high levels of microscopic allergens which irritate your eyes. If your eyes feel drier than usual, try blinking a few times and make a habit of doing so more frequently. This will allow more moisture into your eyes.”
4. Pick up a stylish broad-brimmed hat
Head gear isn’t just fashion-forward it’s also a must when it comes to protecting our eyes from the harsh sun. “The wider the brim, the more the hat will deflect sunshine overhead and from the sides,” he says. Go as big and bold as you dare – especially between 10am and 2pm when the sun is at its strongest.”
5. Drink plenty of water
“Drinking lots of water during the summer months,” he said. “It will help your eyes maintain a healthy balance of fluid, preventing them from becoming dehydrated and irritated. Well hydrated eyes also means sparkly eyes.”