Our skin is the largest organ in our body. Most often, we neglect it or take it for granted. But without resilient, healthy skin our muscles and internal organs are exposed to the sun’s harsh UV rays that can lead to burns and later, infections.
UV safety month is celebrated each year in the whole month of July to promote awareness of UV radiation exposure to your skin and eyes and the damage it causes.
Did you know that being out in the sun for 15 minutes, can damage your skin and eyes?
Yes, you read that, right! Fifteen minutes may seem like a short time; this could be a quick check on your garden or maybe stroll around your property but, these brief moments could lead to damages to your skin.
The sun emits rays like UV rays or ultra-violet rays that age the skin at a faster pace. When skin is damaged by these UV rays it produces more melanin to try to protect it from further damage. This is what causes your skin to change color and tan, turn red or get more freckles after sun exposure.
Why are UV rays harmful?
While there are beneficial effects of UV exposure, the risks are high and more likely to develop into:
- skin cancer
- premature skin aging
- increased eye sensitivity for people taking medications like antibiotics, birth control pills, and products containing benzoyl peroxide.
Skin cancer is the most common cancer in the United States. People who love the sun have higher risks of getting skin cancer because areas like the face, neck, arms and hands are exposed to the sun.
Protection & Prevention
The CDC recommends various ways of protecting one’s self from the sun. One easy way is wearing wide-brimmed hats to cover your face and neck. Apply sunscreen with SPF 15 or higher, making sure not leaving any skin uncovered. Tanning beds or indoor tanning should also be avoided altogether as they increase risks of developing skin cancers.
Long sleeves can actually make you cooler.
People who work outdoors day after day in the hottest places in the world wear thin long sleeve shirts. They know that this actually helps to keep them cooler than if they wore tank tops or no shirt because the sweat they produce soaks their clothing. Damp or wet clothing absorbs latent heat from their bodies allowing them to cool off more quickly. That’s right, wet clothing increases heat loss by 5 times. When working in the garden or playing outside, light clothing that covers your arms and legs are a great way to stay cool and they provide excellent protection from the sun’s rays. If you’re not sweating enough try to mist your shirt with a little water.
How can UV rays damage the eyes?
UV rays affect our eyes as much as it affects our skin. Prolonged exposure to the sun can cause vision problems and damage your eyes over time. Some eye damage conditions can be short term or long term.
Short term Eye Conditions
Photokeratitis and photo conjunctivitis is a short term eye condition caused by UV radiation to the cornea making it inflamed. Your eyes may appear swollen, feel gritty, and watery. You may also have difficulty looking at bright lights and have blurred vision.
Long term Eye Damage
In old age, we hear the word cataract. It is an eye condition that is related in old age; however, prolonged exposure to UV radiation can cause cataracts at a younger age. See eye problems.
Pterygium is soft fleshy overgrowth conjunctiva. It usually starts growing from the corner of the eye, and gradually grows towards the center covering your cornea. Although this condition is painless, if left untreated it may damage your vision.
Pingueculae, similar to pterygium, pingueculae is a chalky, yellowish-colored growth that forms in the corner of the eye, but unlike pterygium, pingueculae do not grow towards your cornea. And just like pterygium, pinguecula is non-cancerous.
Macular degeneration – Your macula sits in the center of your retina; however, UVA rays can still penetrate through this part of the eye, causing a blurry vision that can lead to complete vision loss. Macular degeneration is also another age-related eye disease, but with prolonged exposure to UVA radiation, this condition can develop early.
How to prevent these Sun related eye conditions?
At the very least, wear wide-brimmed hats, and stay under shade to reduce exposure to UV rays. Experts recommend proper eyewear on sunny days. Choosing eyewear can be tricky because we sometimes pick them according to its style and compatibility to our face. The most recommended sunglasses are wraparound sunglasses that have UVA and UVB protection. Your optometrist can assist you in choosing the best eyewear with UV protection.