Summertime is sunglasses season. Thing is, we need to protect our eyes from UV rays year-round. There’s a lot of research about developing cataracts and skin cancer around as a result of sun exposure. July is UV Safety Awareness Month and here are five things you can start doing now to protect your eyes.   

    1. Choose Proper Sunglasses Sunglass labeled “UV400” or “100 percent UV protection” are best. The Federal Occupational Health recommends wrap-around styles, too, so you can protect your eyes from every angle. Remember to wear your sunglasses on overcast days because UV rays can still penetrate through the clouds.
    2. Look Away from the Sun Perhaps this one goes without saying, but it still bears repeating. When you stare directly at the sun you risk burning holes in your retina which is called solar retinopathy. This condition is rare, but when the damage occurs, it’s irreversible.  
    3. Beware Medications that Cause Photosensitivity A 2014 survey by the American Academy of Ophthalmology found that “one-third of adults use medications that may increase photosensitivity, or increased susceptibility to damage from UV rays.” Check your prescription labels to see if there’s one such warning with one of your medications. Furthermore, taking these drugs might be more harmful if you have light-colored eyes.
    4. Wear a Hat Donning a wide-brimmed during walks or beach trips can help protect your eyes from sunrays at every angle.
    5. Drive with Sunglasses Yes, you need to keep your sunglasses on even in the car. In a recent study, “Assessment of Levels of Ultraviolet A Light Protection in Automobile Windshields and Side Windows,” published in JAMA Ophthalmology, researchers reported a front-windshield UV-A blockage of 96% compared to the average percentage of side-window blockage, which was 71%, sharing the following conclusions:

The level of front-windshield UV-A protection was consistently high among automobiles. The level of side-window UV-A protection was lower and highly variable. These results may in part explain the reported increased rates of cataract in left eyes and left-sided facial skin cancer. Automakers may wish to consider increasing the degree of UV-A protection in the side windows of automobiles.

So for your next road trip, or your weekend driving around the neighborhood to run errands, be sure to go the extra mile and wear glasses or sunglasses. And don’t forget to make sure those glasses or sunglasses have the right kind, and the right amount, of UV protection.