Summer is here, and so is the time for all kinds of fun in the sun. It’s also a time to take certain safety measures to ensure continued good health for your eyes.
Allergic to Summer
As the weather warms up, many people suffer from seasonal allergies. Allergies are caused by an immune reaction to allergens, materials such as dust, pet dander, mold, or pollen that are usually harmless. Pollen from trees and other plants is the most common offender this time of year. People who suffer from seasonal allergies experience itching, redness, and watery eyes.
How can you beat your seasonal allergies? The simplest way is to avoid allergens. Try investing in high quality air filters at home and make sure you change the filter on your air conditioner as recommended. Wearing a pair of high-quality wrap around sunglasses that fit close to your face can help limit pollen exposure to your eyes. If you wear contacts, you might consider switching to glasses during allergy season. Allergens can stick to the surface of contact lenses and accumulate there, adding fuel to the flame. If you can’t go without contacts, consider switching to daily disposables instead.
Remember to grab your sunglasses before you run out the door. They’re not just stylish, they can help protect your eyes from harmful UV rays. Without protection, prolonged exposure to sunlight (or UV rays from other sources such as tanning beds) can increase risk for cataracts and growths such as pinguecula or pterygium (surfer’s eye). There is also the risk of photokeratitis, also known as snow blindness. When sunlight reflects off water, snow, ice, or sand, the intensity of the UV rays can damage the eye’s cornea and conjunctiva. The effect is similar to a sunburn on the surface of the eye. Symptoms include pain, sensitivity to light, blurriness, swelling, and a gritty feeling.
Manmade sources of UV light such as tanning beds and welding torches can also cause photokeratitis and require special protection to ensure safety.
Not just any sunglasses will offer protection. Look for sunglasses with 100 percent UV absorption. Remember, during summer months the levels of UV light are up to three times as intense as they are in winter. Consider polarized lenses for glare reduction or transition lenses if you wear prescription glasses. For maximum protection, you can wear a hat with a large brim to block the delicate skin of your face from the sun.
Cool in the Pool
Who doesn’t want to keep cool in the pool when the temperature hits triple digits? The water may feel good on your skin, but the exposure to pool chemicals irritates eyes, leading to red, dry “swimmer’s eye”. People who swim frequently may potentially develop dry eye due to the eye’s tear film washing away. The protective tear film keeps your eyes hydrated and helps protect them from foreign material and bacteria. Without a fully functioning tear film, you will be more likely to develop eye infections from bacteria that live in pool water.
What can you do to protect your eyes without getting out of the water? The best solution is to wear goggles every time you swim. Goggles keep your eyes free of chlorine and keeps your tear film intact. They have the added benefit of improving underwater vision while you swim! Once you finish swimming, use clean water to rinse your closed eyes. This will help remove irritating pool chemicals from the sensitive skin of the eyelids and avoid reintroduction if you accidentally rub your eyes later. You can also use over the counter eye drops to help restore your tear film and soothe irritated eyes.
Avoid swimming with contact lenses entirely. Contacts can absorb chemicals from water and begin to grow bacteria after going swimming one time. The contacts along with these chemicals and growing bacteria are then exposed to your eyes for long periods of time. This can lead to an infection, corneal ulcer, or possibly loss of vision.
If you have questions or concerns about summer eye care, contact us at (951) 696-1135 to schedule an appointment.