The human eye is an incredibly complex organ. It absorbs reflected light, focusses it, converts it into an electromechanical signal and sends that signal to the brain. And there you have it – the miracle of vision!
But there’s one thing the eyes aren’t too good at and that’s protecting themselves from UV rays. Our eyes react to bright light by forcing us to squint and constricting our pupils but they can’t actually filter UV. The biggest risk to our vision, especially as we age, is the thing that gives us sight in the first place, the sun.
The Sun Can Seriously Damage Your Eyes
Overexposure to the sun’s harmful UV rays can damage the eyes in a number of ways.
Cataracts. In a person with cataracts, the flexible, transparent lens in the eye becomes rigid and cloudy. Initially, this loss of transparency causes blurry vision but cataracts can progress to blindness. Blindness caused by cataracts affects around 16 million people around the world and, according to the World Health Organization, up to 20 percent of these cases were caused by overexposure to UV.
Cancer of the Eye. Overexposure to the sun can also lead to cancer of the eye. Melanomas can form on the eyeball itself or on the eyelids.
Pterygium. Eye tissue referred to as conjunctiva can grow over the surface of the white part of the eye. Not only is this unsightly but it can actually distort the shape of the eye, interfere with vision and become painfully inflamed. It is thought that Pterygium is linked to UV exposure.
Photokeratitis. Commonly known as “snow blindness”, Photokeratitis is an inflammation of the cornea. Essentially sunburn on the surface of the eye, Photokeratitis is very painful and in very extreme cases can cause blindness. High-altitude climbers and skiers are particularly ar risk as snow can reflect up to 80 percent of the sun’s UV radiation.
How Sunglasses Protect Your Eyes
A great pair of sunglasses is a key component of every head-turning summer look. But sunglasses are also a necessary form of protection against the sun. Like wearing sunscreen, donning a pair of sunglasses should be a part of your routine whenever you go outside.
Most sunglasses block a certain percentage of visible light from entering your eye but only good-quality sunglasses are capable of filtering out UVA and UVB rays. A study from the American Optometrist Association noted found that 47 percent of American consumers do not check UV protection level before buying sunglasses. So what should you be looking for when buying new sunglasses or lenses? Ideally you need lenses that protect your eyes as well as look good!
Choosing the Best Sunglasses
When buying sunglasses, look out for the following features:
- Check the tag on your sunglasses and look for confirmation that they block at least 99 percent of the sun’s UV rays. This means UVA and UVB rays.
- To be effective, sunglasses should ideally filter out at least 75 percent of visible light.
- The sunglasses’ shape should block as much light as possible, around the top, bottom, and sides of your eyes.
- Sunglasses lenses come in a wide range of color tints. Yellow or golden tinted lenses are effective in filtering the blue light emitted by digital devices. Purple and pink tinted lenses are great for improving color contrast, particularly against a blue or green background. Amber or brown colored lenses are considered multi-purpose and can reduce glare while absorbing blue light and UV rays.
- Sunglasses lenses should be identical on both sides. Look for any distortion or color inconsistencies.
- It’s also a good idea to fork out for polarized lenses. A polarizing lens has an extra microscopic filter made from a chemical film that can filter even more light.
- Finally, an anti-reflective and scratch-resistant coating will ensure your new sunglasses last longer than one summer.
A good pair of sunglasses is not a throw-away fashion accessory but an investment in the long-term health of your eyes. And if your investment does get scratched or damaged in any way, you can get your sunglasses repaired!
Other gear that’s important to keep you safe while working outside can be work boots made specifically for farming. Boots that are specifically made to keep water out while protecting your feet are crucial while doing long days out in the fields.
A quality wide brim hat will also protect your face and eyes from the direct rays of the sun. The more surface area you can cover with shade while working can improve your chances of skin cancer and other issues that can be caused by over exposure of the sun.