5 tips for protecting eyes from UV rays

You probably know about protecting your skin from the sun, but what about your vision? It’s another important thing to think about before heading outside — especially on bright days. 

The same ultraviolet (UV) rays that cause sunburns may eventually lead to eye issues. Too much sun can contribute to skin cancer around your eyes and other conditions that threaten vision.

“Exposure to ultraviolet radiation may contribute to the development of cataracts and macular degeneration, both of which can result in blindness,” said Dr. Scott Edmonds, chief eye care officer at UnitedHealthcare.

UV exposure can also lead to keratitis, a painful burning of the cornea. The condition is sometimes called “corneal sunburn” or “snow blindness,” because it occurs in skiers and hikers who are affected by the sun’s intensity and reflective power at high altitudes.

“Exposure adds up,” said Dr. Edmonds. “Any time you’re in the sun without eye protection, you may be increasing your potential for problems.” 

Five tips to help your eyes

1. Wear proper sunglasses

There are two ultraviolet rays to note — UVA and UVB — and both can cause eye problems. Look for sunglasses that block 99–100% of UVA and UVB radiation. Choose lenses large enough to completely cover your eyes and the delicate skin that surrounds them.

2. Add a wide-brimmed hat

A hat’s brim can help block about half of UV rays. It can also limit UV rays that may sneak in from above or around sunglasses. 

3. Avoid certain exposure times

Consider avoiding the strongest sunlight of the day, which is typically midday to early afternoon. Remember that the sun’s rays can also be more powerful at higher altitudes and when reflected off water, ice or snow.

4. Pass on tanning beds

Research indicates the intensity of UV radiation from tanning beds is more dangerous than the sun itself — and can cause serious damage to structures of the eye and eyelids. Many health organizations recommend avoiding any type of indoor tanning. 

5. Don’t be fooled by clouds

UV light can pass through clouds, so they can’t replace the protection of sunglasses and a hat. Take precautions to avoid UV rays even amid clouds and haze.

Some insurance plans, such as those available through UnitedHealthcare Vision, enable members to get a discount on a second pair of prescription eyewear — including sunglasses. Check your vision plan to see if you have benefits that may help you protect your eyes while you’re enjoying fun in the sun.

For more information and to save on prescription eyewear, visit uhcglasses.com.

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