By Dr. Mark Siegel, MD, FAAO
Medical director of Sea Island Ophthalmology, board certified, American Board of Ophthamology, www.seaislandophthamology.com. 525-1500.
As you rub sunscreen on to protect your skin this summer, don’t forget to protect your eyes as well. Summertime means more time spent outdoors, and studies show that exposure to bright sunlight may increase the risk of developing cataracts, age-related macular degeneration (AMD) and growths on the eye, including cancer.
June is UV (ultraviolet light) Safety Awareness Month. The American Academy of Ophthalmology wants to remind Americans of the importance of protecting their eyes from the sun’s harmful rays by wearing proper protection
UV radiation, whether from natural sunlight or indoor artificial rays, can damage the delicate eyelid skin, leading to skin cancer. Surface tissues of the eye, such as the conjunctiva, cornea and lens are also especially vulnerable. By wearing UV blocking sunglasses, you can enjoy the summer safely while lowering your risk for potentially blinding eye diseases and tumors. It is important to start wearing proper eye protection at an early age to protect the eyes from years of ultraviolet exposure.
Your eyes are at risk from the sun year-round. However, the longer the exposure to bright light as happens frequently during the summer, the greater the risk is. Excessive exposure to UV light reflected off sand, water or pavement can damage the eyes’ front surface. In addition to cataracts and AMD, sun exposure can lead to lesions and tumors that may be cosmetically unappealing and require surgical removal. Pinguecula, tiny yellow bumps on the eye, are common from too much UV exposure. They begin on the white part of the eye and may eventually disrupt your vision.
Damage to the eyes from UV light is not limited to the outdoors; it is also a concern with indoor tanning beds. Tanning beds can produce UV levels up to 100 times what you would get from the sun, which can cause very serious damage to the external and internal structures of the eye and eyelids. Corneal burns, cataracts, and, in rare instances, retinal damage can occur. It is critical that you wear the properly designed goggles for use in tanning booths to protect the eyes.