While most Canadians recognize the importance of sunscreen to prevent sunburns and skin cancer, many are unaware that UV light can cause serious eye damage. In fact, overexposure to UV rays has been linked to a variety of eye problems, one of which is cataracts, a condition where the normally clear lens of the eye become cloudy and opaque.
With an estimated 3.2 million Canadians living with cataracts, optometrists are urging residents to book an annual eye exam with a doctor of optometry and take the necessary precautions to protect your vision from the sun’s harmful rays. What can you do?
- Avoid sources for UV radiation. Don’t stare directly at the sun and be aware of reflections from snow, water, sand and pavement. If you’re a welder, hairdresser, lighting technician, paint and resin worker, or work outdoors, be sure you’re in the know about potential risks and how to avoid UV exposure.
- Protect your peepers. Wear sunglasses that are 100% UV blocking against both UVA and UVB rays, and are close-fitting with a wrap-around style frame to help keep light out. If you wear corrective contact lenses, consider wearing UV-blocking contact lenses for an added layer of UV protection. In addition to cataracts, these steps help protect against:
- Stay informed. Get regular eye exams to monitor eye health, maintain good vision and keep up-to-date on the latest in UV protection (Check out the UV Canada smartphone app for up-to-date info on UV radiation in your location).
- 10-4. Keep out of direct sunlight between 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., when the sun’s rays are strongest.
- Children are at high risk. It’s estimated that 50% of lifetime exposure to UV happens before the age of 18. Keep children younger than six months out of direct sunlight, ensure children of all ages wear sunglasses and sun hats when outside and consider using a canopy or umbrella as a sun-shield when at the beach or in the back yard.
- Recognize the symptoms. If you’re experiencing immediate pain, an inflamed cornea, or an aversion to light, see your doctor of optometry right away.
Your doctor of optometry can make specific recommendations to ensure your eyes are well-protected and to fit you with your perfect pair of sunglasses. Booking a comprehensive eye exam can identify early onset of eye-health conditions related to UV that may not have apparent symptoms.