The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has named July Ultraviolet Safety Month to alert people of the dangers of UV radiation. Those rays can indeed damage vision and threaten eye safety, but they are just one menace among many that our eyes face each summer.
Other Common Threats to Eye Safety
4th of July: Independence Day brings a unique problem because people use fireworks carelessly. The Consumer Products Safety Commission provides a long list of instructions for proper use and estimates one-fifth of the injuries caused by fireworks affect the eyes. The National Safety Council warns against sparklers, which some adults think children can handle safely. However, they may burn at 2000 degrees, quickly ignite clothing and severely harm hands or bare feet. They are also considered a danger to eye safety.
Sports: Summer mentality combined with the warm weather encourages kids to play outside. According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology, in an ordinary year, U.S. emergency rooms treat 30,000 sports-related eye injuries. Now, more than ever, people are weary of ER visits. Thus, we recommend purchasing protective eyewear with shatterproof lenses, as ninety percent of sports-related eye injuries could be prevented by wearing safety goggles or glasses. Basketball leads the list of unsafe sports, partly because players don’t think they’re at risk, followed by baseball, softball, airsoft guns, pellet guns, racquetball and hockey.
Makeup: Glitter and faux eyelashes pose specific problems, says the AAO, but even ordinary makeup can be harmful if misused. Never share it, even with friends or family; use a fresh applicator when testing it in a store; toss creamy or liquid makeup after three months to avoid buildup of bacteria. Be careful using mascara wands because a slip of the fingers can cause a corneal abrasion.
Stay alert for allergic reactions, stop using products as soon as they induce pink eye or affect natural lubrication, never sleep in eye makeup and be careful how you take makeup off: Don’t use exfoliating scrubs, which can contain tiny beads that irritate eyes. Try baby shampoo, petroleum jelly or mild soap instead.
UV Radiation and Its Affect on the Eyes
Even if you never play sports, wear makeup or set off fireworks, you still need to protect your eyes from the sun. Overexposure may lead to cataracts, macular degeneration, photokeratitis (a painful affliction likened to sunburned corneas) or pterygia. Pterygia, known as “surfer’s eye”, increases the risk of vision-disfiguring bumps due to sunlight reflecting off the water.
The ozone layer above Earth’s atmosphere blocks most UVC rays, the rays that pose the greatest threat to skin and eye safety. However, deterioration in that layer affects our safety net. Sunglasses, especially the wraparound kind, keep out UVA and UVB rays. If you are curious, eye care professionals can measure the amount your lenses block. Both adults and children should wear sunglasses whenever they are outdoors. Remember, UV rays pose a threat even on overcast days and when you are in the shade. Neither air temperature nor skin color matters. While people of darker hues may be less susceptible to skin cancers, they face the same eye problems as everyone else.
Of course, not all outdoor areas are created equal. Certain factors pose extra risk to eye safety, such as:
- Higher altitudes
- Open areas (particularly on the beach or in the snow)
- Closer proximity to the equator
Pay attention to warnings on certain medications, as well. Diuretics, tranquilizers, birth control pills and tetracycline increase the body’s sensitivity to light. An eye doctor can alert you to those dangers and catch any changes in vision at your annual check-up.
Horizon Eye Care
To schedule an exam at Horizon Eye Care, use our Patient Portal or call 704-365-0555 Monday – Thursday, 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. and Friday 8:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.