Dr. Thomas Augustine, an optometrist, says when you buy new set of shades, look for the sticker that says they’ll block 99 to 100% of all harmful rays.
“UVA and B rays are the invisible rays our eyes don’t see but they’re the ones that do the most damage from the front of the eye all the way to the back of the eye,” Dr. Augustine says. “Another thing to look for is more of a wrap, one that hugs closer to the eyes, if possible. Sometimes, there’s prescription limitations but those just give you a little bit of extra coverage.”
If you don’t wear sunglasses and spend a lot of time in the sun, you run the risk of sunburning your eyes. The condition is called photokeratitis — and it can really hurt.
“Even the front part of the eye, the cornea, has a skin to it like the rest of our body and, just like you can sunburn the skin somewhere else, you can do it on the front of the eyes,” Augustine says. “Usually, it’s blurred vision. It can be very painful. The eyes are very sensitive. Usually, you heal 100% from that. You may have to use some drops to reduce swelling or or wear contact lenses as a bandage to give you more comfort as the front of the eye heals.”
He says this sunburning of the eyes is more common during the wintertime with downhill skiiers, as the snow reflects sunlight very well.
Nebraskans are also reminded to make sure their children’s eyes are protected from the big ball of fire.
“For kids, sunglasses are great,” Augustine says. “Sometimes, it’s more difficult if they want to take them off. There are some specialty ones that hug around their face. Don’t forget hats. Hats help protect that sensitive skin of the eyelids which is a common place for overexposure or skin cancer.”
Unlike most of our windshields, he says many vehicles’ passenger windows aren’t treated to protect against all of the harmful rays. If you have a kid in a carseat in the back seat, be sure they’re protected, either with a stick-on screen, shading or by having them wear sunglasses.
A federal study finds the sun’s rays are the strongest between 10 AM and 4 PM and even on an overcast day, up to 80% of the U-V rays can get through the clouds.