You’ve undoubtedly heard about the importance of sunscreen, but did you know that taking care of your eyes in the heat is just as important as protecting your skin?
According to the World Health Organization, there are 15 million people worldwide who are blind from cataracts, and for up to 10% of these people, exposure to ultraviolet radiation may be the cause of their condition.
Fortunately, there are easy ways to prevent sun damage to your eyes. Keep reading to learn how to protect your eyes from the elements this summer. For more eye care tips, see the best places to buy glasses and contact lenses online.
Eye protection from the sun in warm weather
From wearing sunglasses to eating a balanced diet, there are many ways to protect your eyes in the heat. Here are some science-based summer eye care tips.
One of the easiest — and most stylish — ways to take care of your eyes is by wearing sunglasses during the day. When your eyes aren’t protected from the sun, they’re exposed to multiple types of UV rays, which can increase your risk of certain diseases, including photokeratitis and cataracts.
Consider polarized lenses
Polarized lenses are designed with a special chemical that filters out more light than other sunglasses. They also reduce glare from reflective surfaces like water and snow, so they’re a good option if you spend a lot of time outside.
Choose the right lens color
While it may seem like darker lenses would provide more UV protection, the opposite is true. Extra dark lenses force your pupils to open wider, allowing more sunlight into your eyes. Instead of dark lenses, choose gray or smoked lenses to get the best protection from the sun.
Keep your eyes hydrated
In the summer, your eyes can dry out quickly, especially if you live in a dry climate, regularly sit in air-conditioned rooms, or spend a lot of time in swimming pools. Dehydrated eyes can have unpleasant consequences, causing burning, irritation and sensitivity to light, which can be worsened if you wear contact lenses.
Drinking alcohol can also dry out your eyes, so reducing your alcohol intake can help keep your eyes lubricated and prevent dehydration.
Use eye drops if your eyes are dry
If you have a moderate case of dry eyes, you may find some relief from over-the-counter eye drops. But if irritation persists, talk to your doctor about getting prescription drops.
Eat a well-balanced diet
Following a nutritious diet can also have benefits for your eye health. Specifically, you’ll want to aim for a well-balanced eating plan that includes a variety of antioxidant-rich foods that support eye health.
For example, vitamin C can help reduce the risk of developing cataracts. Good sources of this vitamin include raw peppers, oranges and carrots. Likewise, vitamin E protects your eyes from free radicals that can damage and destroy the tissue in your eyes. You can find vitamin E in seeds, nuts and sweet potatoes. Finally, vitamin A also supports proper eye function and is found in foods such as green leafy vegetables and oranges.
In contrast, there are also foods that are not great for your eye health. Sweetened drinks and fried foods, for example, can increase the risk of diabetes and later diabetic retinopathy.
Limit screen time
Staring at a laptop or phone screen for too long can irritate your eyes and lead to a condition called eye strain. Common symptoms of eye strain include headaches, sensitivity to light, itchy eyes, and blurred vision.
Unfortunately, depending on your job, avoiding screen time may not be realistic. However, there are some eye care tactics you can use to limit the effect digital screens have on your eyes. In particular, the American Optometric Association recommends following the 20-20-20 rule while using electronic screens. This means taking a 20-second break from all screens at least once every 20 minutes to look at an object that is 20 feet away.
Other strategies to protect your eyes from digital screens include lowering the brightness of your devices, switching to dark mode, and wearing blue light blocking glasses.
Avoid looking directly at the sun
Staring into the sun for too long isn’t just uncomfortable—it can cause serious, and sometimes permanent, damage to your eyes. When the sun’s UV rays enter your eyes, they can form free radicals and damage your retina, potentially causing a condition known as solar or light retinopathy.
Milder symptoms of solar retinopathy can range from watery eyes to eye discomfort and headaches. If your case is more severe, you may experience blurred vision or blind spots. For some people, these effects are irreversible. If you have noticed that your vision has worsened after viewing an eclipse or looking at the sun, make an appointment with your doctor as soon as possible.
Protect your eyes while you are outside or playing sports
Besides wearing sunglasses, there are other effective ways to protect your eyes while you spend time outside.
For example, if you are in the garden or hiking, you can wear a wide-brimmed hat or visor to keep your eyes covered. If you’re headed to the beach or pool, grab a pair of goggles to protect your eyes from the water, salt, and chlorine and protect swimmer’s eye. Likewise, if you play sports, be sure to wear safety glasses to reduce the risk of eye injury.
No matter what you do, you should also wear sunscreen on your face to prevent burns to your eyelids or the sensitive skin around your eyes.
Get quality sleep
If you’ve ever woken up from a bad night’s sleep with dry and itchy eyes, you’ve experienced how a lack of quality sleep can affect your eye health, and the science backs it up. In one study, researchers found a link between poor sleep quality and dry eye disease, noting that subpar sleep quality can worsen the effects of DED.
Read more: Bad sleep? Try these easy tricks
When you’re tired, you’re more likely to rub your eyes, which can lead to eye damage or infection. Separately, not getting enough sleep is linked to other annoying but minor health problems, including myokymia (eye twitching), bloodshot eyes, and puffiness and bags under the eyes.