If you’ve lived in Southwest Florida for any length of time, you’re already acquainted with our coastal climate. Whether you are a beach goer or a patio dweller, a pickleballer or golfer, protecting your eyes from sun damage is a must. At Collins Vision, we care about your eye health in every season, but since May is Healthy Vision Month and also Ultraviolet Awareness Month, we thought it would be a good time to focus on ways to keep your eyes healthy and protected, particularly in the summer months.

What is the Connection Between Ultraviolet Rays and Eye Health?

There are two different types of ultraviolet rays that come from the sun: UV-A and UV-B. The cumulative effects of both types of UV exposure may, over time, contribute to a number of eye issues. It is generally believed that UV-A rays may affect central vision by damaging the macula, a part of the retina at the back of the eye. The front part of the eye (the cornea and the lens) absorbs most UV-B rays, but these may cause even more harm to the eyes than UV-A rays.

At the beach, sand or water can reflect up to 25% of UV, and in the United States, southern communities tend to receive more intense solar rays than northern ones. This makes those of us who call Florida home more susceptible to eye damage as a result of sun exposure.

How Can UV Exposure Impact My Vision?

UV light penetrates the delicate tissues of the eye more than visible light, and exposure can contribute to vision conditions including corneal damage, cataracts and even macular degeneration. Each of these conditions can ultimately lead to decreased vision. Additionally, UV light is associated with skin cancers, including squamous cell carcinomas, basal cell carcinomas and melanoma, which can occur not just on the skin, but on the conjunctiva and invade the cornea and inside of the eye. 

Another eye condition that has been linked to prolonged sun exposure is called a pterygium (sometimes referred to as surfer’s eye). A pterygium is a benign growth inside the eye that can cause irritation and in some cases, impede vision.     

How Can I Protect My Eyes This Summer?

The best and simplest way to protect your eyes from UV damage is to wear a hat and sunglasses. But not just any hat and sunglasses. Choose a hat with a wide, dark-colored brim to shade your eyes and reduce glare. Sunglasses should have UV blocking lenses, fit well and prevent light from coming in around the lenses.

We recommend lenses that provide 99 to 100 percent protection from UVA and UVB or marked as having a UV400 rating. The U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) regulates non-prescription sunglasses as medical devices. It requires that manufacturers and retailers meet minimum requirements for UV protection, lens quality, impact resistance, labeling and more. Unsure if your sunglasses have UV-blocking lenses? Our optical boutique has a device called a photometer to test them. 

Another important consideration when choosing sunglasses is how you will use them. Choose sunglasses according to your activity. Activities near water, sand and other reflective surfaces increase UV exposure by reflecting light. Polarized lenses are great for reducing glare from water. Consider wearing wraparound sunglasses to protect yourself from intense light or when doing gardening, yardwork or other outdoor activities.

See the Difference at Collins Vision

At Collins Vision, our skilled and experienced doctors, Dr. Michael J. Collins, Dr. Jason C. Friedrichs, Dr. Jay S. Rosen and Dr. Nicole E. Alessi, provide expertise in a wide range of eye care services, from routine exams and the treatment and management of eye diseases to laser vision correction and cataract surgery.

Collins Vision is proud to be Southwest Florida’s leading full-service eye care practice since 2004. We provide comprehensive eye care for elevated vision and look forward to serving you in our Fort Myers and Naples locations. Schedule your appointment today.