According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO), excessive exposure to sunlight could cause damage to your vision. Effects range from reversible burns to permanent vision problems.
Moderate exposure to the sun's ultraviolet rays is essential for the production of vitamin D in the skin. However, just as with other excesses, prolonged direct exposure to the sun has adverse health effects including skin diseases (that could lead to cancer), and eye diseases.
The AAO mentions that the main eye disorders that could be brought on or sped up by excessive exposure to ultraviolet rays are:
- Age-related macular degeneration:involves a degeneration of or injury to the macula,a tissue layer found in the center of the retina, which is in charge of fine sight (in other words, the eye's ability to perceive details or small objects). Once this degeneration occurs, people lose sharpness and clarity in their vision. According to the AAO, this disorder is the main cause of vision loss in older American adults.
- Cataracts:are an alteration to the crystalline lens which makes it lose its natural transparency and turn opaque. The crystalline lens in the eye allows us to focus on images. By losing its transparency, vision diminishes. This is one of the main causes of vision loss and blindness according to the American Academy of Ophthalmology.
Since all of us are exposed to the sun and ultraviolet rays, it's important to take the necessary steps to care for our vision. Even exposure to the sun's reflection on the sand or pavement could harm our eyes, causing surface burns. What can you do? Follow these recommendations from the AAO experts:
- Use sunglasses that protect against UVA and UVB rays. It's important to read the label on the sunglasses to make sure they block 99 to 100% of the rays for them to be effective. You don't have to go out and buy the most expensive sunglasses; just remember that sometimes "cheap turns out to be more expensive." Also remember that the darkest sunglasses aren't always the ones that will best protect your eyes.
- If you're going outside, wear a hat (in addition to sunglasses).
- Protect your eyes with water goggles when you go swimming. This way you'll not only protect your eyes from the sun's reflection, but also from pollution and bacteria that could be lurking in the water and cause an infection.
Moreover, remember that vitamin Ais essential for vision, since it is part of the retina pigments (this is why it is also known as retinol).Some foods that are rich in vitamin A are: eggs, milk, cheese, carrots, pumpkins, guava, cantaloupes, broccoli, and spinach, among others.
Finally, if you experience abnormalities in your eyes or if you notice changes in your vision, the best thing you can do is consult your ophthalmologist.
Now that you know some tips for taking better care of your eyes, put your sunglasses on and go out and enjoy summer!
Source: American Academy of Ophthalmology (2008). UV Safety.Reviewed June, 2008 from http://commonspot.aao.org/practice_mgmt/patients/eyemd/upload/July.pdf.
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