UV Exposure: Are You Reminding Patients to Guard Their Eyes?

As an eyecare professional, you’re well aware of how the sun’s UV rays can damage eyes if proper precautions are not taken. And while your patients are probably well-aware of the damaging effects of UV rays on skin, do they know the dangers their eyes face without proper protection?


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According to a study conducted earlier this year by The Vision Council, 40 percent of adults in the United States don’t wear sunglasses when outdoors, revealing what’s been described as “a large disconnect between what Americans say they do to protect their eyes versus what they actually do when outside or behind the wheel.”


With that information in mind, it’s a good idea to send a reminder to patients about the dangers of overexposing their eyes to sunlight, not just in the summer but all year long. Those dangers include an increased risk of skin cancers of the eyelid, such as basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma, and melanoma. Overexposure can also increase the risk of cataracts, macular degeneration, and benign growths of the conjunctiva (The Skin Cancer Foundation). Finally, it can result in photokeratitis, or sun burn of the cornea, which can be both painful and frightening.


CNN news correspondent Anderson Cooper experienced photokeratitis earlier this year after spending a few hours on a boat to cover a story without sunglasses, and shared his story with Time:


“I wake up in the middle of the night and it feels like my eyes are on fire… and I think, ‘Oh maybe I have sand in my eyes or something.’ I douse my eyes with water. Anyway, it turns out I have sunburned my eyeballs. I went blind for 36 hours.”


Cooper revealed to USA Today that he didn’t know it was possible for your eyes to be sun burned. Unfortunately, Cooper is one of many that are unaware.


You should also remind patients that the solution to protecting their eyes from the sun is quite simple – a pair of quality sunglasses! The Skin Cancer Foundation recommends purchasing sunglasses with lenses capable of absorbing and blocking 99 to 100 percent of UVA and UBV rays, as well as protection from HEV light. It’s also important to remind patients that sunglasses should be worn in all seasons, and even if they are in the shade (All About Vision).


In addition to wearing sunglasses and closely monitoring sun exposure, patients should also be reminded of the importance of regular eye exams for good eye health. A comprehensive eye exam can often spot issues or eye diseases in their earliest stages, long before a patient notices a change in their vision.


How do you emphasize the importance of wearing sunglasses and limiting sun exposure as a part of good eye health? Share your tips in a comment below.