Can You Get Sunburned Eyes?

You know to slather on lots of sunblock before going out in the sun, and to keep applying it throughout the day. What about your eyes? Do you always wear a brimmed hat and sunglasses? Even on cloudy days? Can your eyes get sunburned?

The short answer is yes, you can get sunburned eyes, and just like you skin, it could come back and haunt you in the future.
 

eyes get sunburned
photo courtesy of Sarah DeRemer

Severely sunburned eyes, known as photokeratitis, is a result of prolonged exposure to the sun’s ultraviolet rays and can cause a burning sensation and blurred vision. Realize that these damaging UV rays do not just come directly from the sun, but also from the reflection of these rays from water and sand.

Symptoms of sunburned eyes include:

  • Eye pain
  • A  gritty feeling
  • Burning sensation
  • Red eyes
  • Swollen eyes and/or lids
  • Watery eyes
  • Blurred vision
  • Sensitivity to light
  • Glare and halos around lights
  • Headaches

These symptoms are temporary and should resolve on their own within 24 to 48 hours. If the symptoms last longer, see your eye doctor immediately.

While waiting for your eyes to recover you might want to:

  • Stay indoors and wear sunglasses to help with your increased light sensitivity.
  • Keep your eyes moist with preservative-free artificial tears.
  • Use OTC pain relievers to help with the pain and follow the recommended dosage.
  • DO NOT rub your eyes.
  • If you wear contact lenses, remove them immediately and stop wearing them until your eyes have returned to normal.
  • You may find that placing a cool, damp cloth over your closed eyes is soothing.

Just like with your skin, the UV rays do have a long-term effect on your eyes.  Sunlight can cause a slow deterioration of the cells in your eyes that could lead to eye diseases such as age-related macular degeneration and cataracts. Therefore it is best to limit you exposure to both direct and reflected UV rays.

The best ways to protect your eyes include wearing sunglasses that block 100% of the UV rays and a hat.  Not all sunglasses have UV protection, so make sure the ones you select do, and wear them whenever outdoors. Even on a cloudy day as UV rays penetrate clouds. For maximum protection consider wrap-around glasses to protect you from direct and indirect sunlight.  If you are participating in sports, goggles or glasses designed for your specific sport might be the best option. And don’t forget to wear a brimmed hat. It will not only protect you from indirect sunlight, it will also protect your face from sunburn.

Susan DeRemer

Susan DeRemer, CFRE
Discovery Eye Foundation

Night Blindness

10/28/14

As the number of daylight hours decrease and daylight savings time is about to end, many of us feel that the days are getting much shorter. If you suffer from night blindness, your days are shorter, because getting around or driving at night, are sometimes impossible.

Night blindness is a condition that makes it difficult for a person to see in low-light situations or at night. Some types are treatable, while others are not. You will need to consult your eye doctor to determine the underlying cause of your night blindness to determine what can or cannot be done.

night blindness
Courtesy of wikipedia

There are several things that could cause night blindness:
•Cataracts
•Genetic eye disease
•Vitamin A deficiency
•Diabetes
•Aging eye
•Sunlight exposure

Here is a brief look at each.
Cataracts – This is when the lens of the eye becomes gradually becomes clouded, reducing vision. Besides reducing vision at night you may also experience halos around lights. This is a treatable condition requiring cataract surgery and replacing your clouded lens with a clear artificial lens. Your vision should improve considerably.

Genetic Eye Disease – Both retinitis pigmentosa or Usher syndrome are progressive genetic eye diseases where the rods that regulate light, and cones that control color perception and detail die. Progressive night blindness is one of the first visual symptoms of these two diseases. Currently there is no treatment for them as there is no way to treat or replace the dying rods.

Vitamin A Deficiency – While rare in the US, it can be a result of other diseases or conditions such as Crohn’s disease, celiac disease, cystic fibrosis or problems with the pancreas. Options to help with the deficiency include vitamin supplements suggested by your doctor, or increasing your intake of orange, yellow or green leafy vegetables.

Diabetes – People with diabetes are at higher risk for night vision problems because of the damage to the blood vessels and nerves in the resulting in diabetic retinopathy. Not only can it cause poor night vision, it may also take longer to see normally after coming indoors from bright light outside. There is no cure, but controlling blood sugar levels with medicine and diet can help prevent developing retinopathy or help slow the progression.

Aging Eye – As we age several things happen to our eyes. Our iris, which regulates the amount of light going into the eye, gets weaker and less responsive. This can make adapting from light to dark more difficult and slower. Our pupils shrink slightly allowing less light into the eye. The lens of the eye becomes cloudier, as explained above in cataracts, limiting the amount of light into the eye. We also have fewer rods for light perception. Aside from cataract surgery there is no treatment for age-related night blindness. However, eating a diet rich in fruits and vegetables and low in saturated fat is the best way to slow the progression. Here is more information on how the aging eye is affected.

Sunlight Exposure – If your night vision seems temporarily worse after a trip to the beach or a day on the ski slopes, it probably is. Sustained bright sunlight can impair your vision, especially if you fail to wear sunglasses or goggles.

Night blindness due to genetic conditions or aging cannot be prevented. However if you protect your eyes from extreme sunlight, eat a healthy diet, and monitor blood sugar levels if needed, you can reduce your chances for night blindness.

As we head into the holiday season, you should know that some great sources of vitamin A include sweet potatoes, butternut squash and … pumpkins!

Susan DeRemerSusan DeRemer, CFRE
Vice President of Development

Ways to Reduce the Harmful Effects of Sun Glare

During the height of summer sunshine (and heat!), it’s helpful to discuss the importance of eye protection, including ways to reduce the harmful effects of sun glare.

Fundamentally, we need light to see. Approximately 80% of all information we take in is received through the sense of sight. However, too much light – and the wrong kind of light – can create glare, which can affect our ability to take in information, analyze it, and make sense of our surroundings.

Facts about Sunlight

Every type of light has advantages and disadvantages, and sunlight is no exception:

Advantages:

• Sunlight is the best, most natural light for most daily living needs.
• Sunlight is continuous and full-spectrum: the sun’s energy at all wavelengths is equal and it contains all wavelengths of light (explained below).

Disadvantages:

• It is difficult to control the brightness and intensity of sunlight.
• Sunlight can create glare, which can be problematic for many people who have low vision.
• Sunlight is not always consistent or reliable, such as on cloudy or overcast days.

Visible Light and Light Rays

An important factor to consider is the measurement of visible light and light rays, beginning with the definition of a nanometer:

• A nanometer (nm) is the measurement of a wavelength of light.
• A wavelength is the distance between two successive wave crests or troughs:

Wavelength - glare

• A nanometer = 1/1,000,000,000 of a meter, or one-billionth of a meter. It’s very small!

The human visual system is not uniformly sensitive to all light rays. Visible light rays range from 400 nm (shorter, higher-energy wavelengths) ? 700 nm (longer, lower-energy wavelengths).
Visible Light Spectrum - glare
The visible light spectrum occupies just one portion of the electromagnetic spectrum, however:

• Below blue-violet (400 nm and below), is ultraviolet (UV) light.
• Above red (700 nm and above), is infrared (IR) light.
• Neither UV nor IR light is visible to the human eye.

Ultraviolet Light and Blue Light

Ultraviolet (UV) light has several components:

• Ultraviolet A, or UVA (320 nm to 400 nm): UVA rays age us.
• Ultraviolet B, or UVB (290 nm to 320 nm): UVB rays burn us.
• Ultraviolet C, or UVC (100 nm to 290 nm): UVC rays are filtered by the atmosphere before they reach us.

Blue light rays (400 nm to 470 nm) are adjacent to the invisible band of UV light rays:

• There is increasing evidence that blue light is harmful to the eye and can amplify damage to retinal cells.
• You can read more about the effects of blue light at Artificial Lighting and the Blue Light Hazard at Prevent Blindness.

A new study from the National Eye Institute confirms that sunlight can increase the risk of cataracts and establishes a link between ultraviolet (UV) rays and oxidative stress, the harmful chemical reactions that occur when cells consume oxygen and other fuels to produce energy.

Sunlight and Glare

Glare is light that does not help to create a clear image on the retina; instead, it has an adverse effect on visual comfort and clarity. Glare is sunlight that hinders instead of helps. There are two primary types of glare.

Disability glare

• Disability (or veiling) glare is sunlight that interferes with the clarity of a visual image and reduces contrast.
• Sources of disability glare include reflective surfaces (chrome fixtures, computer monitors, highly polished floors) and windows that are not covered with curtains or shades.

Discomfort glare

• Discomfort glare is sunlight that causes headaches and eye pain. It does not interfere with the clarity of a visual image.
• Sources of disability glare include the morning and evening positions of the sun; snow and ice; and large bodies of water, (including swimming pools).

Controlling Glare

You can protect your eyes from harmful sunlight and minimize the effects of glare by using a brimmed hat or visor in combination with absorptive lenses.

• Absorptive lenses are sunglasses that filter out ultraviolet and infrared light, reduce glare, and increase contrast. They are recommended for people who have low vision and are also helpful for people with regular vision.
• Lens colors include yellow, pink, plum, amber, green, gray, and brown. Ultra-dark lenses are not the only choice for sun protection.
• Lens tints in yellow or amber are recommended for controlling blue light.
NoIR Medical Technologies: NoIR (No Infra-Red) filters absorb UVA/UVB radiation and also offer IR light protection.
Solar Shields: Solar Shields absorb UVA/UVB radiation and are available in prescription lenses.
• You can find absorptive lenses at a specialty products store, an “aids and appliances store” at an agency for the visually impaired, or a low vision practice in your area. Before you purchase, it’s always best to try on several different tints and styles to determine what works best for you.

More Recommendations

• Always wear sunglasses outside, and make sure they conform to current UVA/UVB standards.
• Be aware that UV and blue light are still present even when it is cloudy or overcast.
• Make sure that children and older family members are always protected with UVA/UVB-blocking sunglasses and brimmed hats or visors.

Maureen Duffy-editedMaureen A. Duffy, CVRT
Social Media Specialist, visionaware.org
Associate Editor, Journal of Visual Impairment & Blindness
Adjunct Faculty, Salus University/College of Education and Rehabilitation

6 Summertime Tips for Children’s Vision

5/20/14

Summer vacation is around the corner and for children this means more time spent outside playing, swimming, or going to the beach. All of this outside activity increases their exposure to ultraviolet rays which is of particular concern because the lens of a child allows 70% more UV rays to reach the retina than in an adult. This may put them at increased risk of developing debilitating eye diseases such as cataracts or macular degeneration as adults.
Children with sunglasses
If you are wearing sunglasses to combat the bright sunlight, then your child should be wearing them, from babies on up. Wrap-around sunglasses provide more sun and eye protection. Wearing protective goggles during sports activities is also important as the National Eye Institute reports there are more than 100,000 sports-related eye injuries every year with 42,000 requiring emergency care.

While it may be hard to get them to leave them on, or if they keep falling off, invest in a strap that can range from $4.50-$10.00. They can be made of neoprene with fun designs like Croakies or they can use an adjustable cord like Chums. In any case it also helps cut down on lost sunglasses.

Pediatricians offer the following five suggestions for children to enjoy a fun and safe summer:

1. Wear sunglasses – especially younger children

During our lives, almost half of the time we spend outdoors is before the age of 12. Sunglasses for children don’t have to be expensive, but make sure they are rated to block both UVA and UVB radiation. Glasses should also have a polycarbonate lens to withstand shattering.

2. Wear protective eye gear for ball or shooting sports

Every year there are 18,000 sports-related eye injuries in US hospital emergency rooms. The American Academy of Ophthalmology recommends that children wear polycarbonate goggles for baseball, basketball and racket sports, including tennis. It becomes even more important with shooting games like air-soft where the projectiles are so small, but can do major damage to the eye. Regular glasses are not recommended if they cannot be secured to the head or are not made from polycarbonate. Also make sure the goggles have proper sun protection for outside sports.

3. Don’t rub if sand gets in the eyes

If a child gets sand into his eyes, take the child immediately to a sink with running water. Do not allow them to rub their eyes as this can scratch the outer layer of the eye known as the cornea. Use a clean cup to pour water over the eyes to remove sand. Encourage blinking and do not discourage crying, because tears remove eye irritants. If flushing and blinking does not work, seek immediate medical attention.

4. Use a non-irritating sunscreen

While you can use adult sunscreens for children, make sure it is PABA free, since that chemical can cause irritation in some people. If your child gets a rash from his sunscreen, review the ingredient’s list and choose a different one. UVA protection from titanium dioxide or zinc oxide tends to be less irritating than avobenzone, another common ingredient.

5. Wear a wide-brimmed hat

Don’t just rely on sunscreen.  Have your child wear a hat with a wide brim.  It not only provides additional protection against sunburn on susceptible areas like the nose, neck and ears, but it also helps to protect their eyes from harmful UV rays.  Not all sunlight enters the eye direct from the front.  Wrap-arounds may help protect light from coming in the sides, but they do not stop sunlight from coming in the top or reflective glare from coming up from the bottom.

6. Check chlorine levels in your pool

Too little chlorine in a swimming pool can allow algae and other bacteria to grow, which can lead to eye infections. On the other end of the spectrum, be sure to check the levels of chloramines and the pH of the pool to avoid stinging and redness. Swim goggles are helpful to keep pool water from entering the eye. If redness and irritation persist after swimming, it could be a sign of a more serious infection and medical attention is needed.

Susan DeRemerSusan DeRemer, CFRE
Vice President of Development
Discovery Eye Foundation

10 Ways to Save Your Vision

More than half of the people responding to a 2012 survey from the American Optometric Association said they valued their eyesight more than their memory or ability to walk. In honor of Save Your Vision Month, here are some everyday things you can control to help “save your vision.”

© Tammy Mcallister - save your vision
© Tammy Mcallister | Dreamstime Stock Photos

 1. Enjoy a cup of tea – Green tea contains antioxidants, like vitamins C and E, lutein, and zeaxanthin that help protect against AMD and cataracts.  It is it hydrating, helping you produce tears.

 2. Take time to blink – On an average you blink about 15 – 20 times a minute. However, that rate drops by half when viewing text on a screen. Try using the 20/20/20 rule when staring at a screen: Every 20 minutes, look 20 feet away for 20 seconds so you can blink naturally and give your eyes time to relax.

 3. Wear sunglasses and a hat – Exposure to ultraviolet (UV) rays can deteriorate vision over time, leading to cataracts and age-related macular degeneration (AMD). The American Optometric Association recommends sunglasses that block at least 99 percent of UVA and UVB radiation and that screen out 75 – 90% of visible light. And if you plan to spend a lot of time outdoors, it’s a good idea to get sunglasses with lenses that are polarized, which means that they’ve been treated to reduce glare.  Since the sun doesn’t just affect your eyes from the front, try wearing a large brimmed hat to further protect your eyes.

4. Increase the seafood in your diet – Omega-3 fatty acids have been shown to bolster heart and brain health, as well as decrease your risk of eye disease. According to a study published in the 2011 Archives of Ophthalmology, women who ate canned tuna and dark-fish meat (mackerel, salmon, sardines, bluefish, swordfish) just once a week reduced their risk for AMD by 42%, as opposed to people that ate the same fish less than once a month.

 5. Eat a rainbow – Eating a full rainbow of fruits and vegetables regularly helps give your body the nutrients it needs.  In addition to fiber, vitamins and minerals, naturally colored foods contain what are known as phytochemicals, which are disease-fighting substances that also give fruits and vegetable their array of colors.  Star nutrients are lutein and zeaxanthin—pigments found in such foods as dark, leafy greens, broccoli, zucchini, peas, and Brussels sprouts. Also important are antioxidants found in red foods such as strawberries, cherries, red peppers and raspberries,  Orange foods have beta-carotene and include carrots, pumpkins, sweet potatoes and yams.

6. Use digital screens at a safe distance – The brightness and glare from computers, tablets, smartphones and televisions can lead to eyestrain after prolonged use. Recent studies have also shown ill-effects from the UV rays from these devices.  Symptoms can include headaches, blurred vision, dry or red eyes and difficulty refocusing. Experts recommend keeping the computer screen at least an arm’s length away and that you hold a handheld device at least 16 inches from your eyes.

 7. Contact lens solutions serve a purpose – While approximately 85% of contact lens wearers claim that they’re caring for their lenses properly, only 2% are according to a study out of Texas. The most harmful but common problem is moistening contacts with saliva instead of saline solution.

 8. Make-up makeover – Replace tubes of mascara after three months, as it is a breeding ground for bacteria. Sharpen liner pencils regularly and while it is okay to line the base of your lashes, using the liner inside the lash line can block oil glands. Replace eye shadows yearly and don’t share your eye cosmetics.

 9. Use protective goggles –   According to a 2008 study from the American Academy of Ophthalmology and the American Society of Ocular Trauma, of the 2.5 million eye injuries in the US annually, nearly half happen at home.  Sports activities are another cause of eye injuries, from contact sports to sports that use balls that could catch you unaware.  When snowboarding or skiing remember to protect your eyes from the sun and wind with tinted goggles that have UV protection.

 10. Have a yearly eye exam – Even if you don’t wear corrective lenses, adults should get a comprehensive eye exam (which includes dilating your pupils with drops) by age 40. After that a yearly eye exam is recommended to keep your eyes healthy and catch any changes in your eyes that may be indicators of eye disease.  If you have a family history of glaucoma or age-related macular degeneration, or you have diabetes, you are at a higher risk for vision-related issues and your doctor may elect to see you more often.  If you have symptoms such as persistent pain inside or behind your eyes, redness, or gradual loss of vision, make an appointment with your doctor immediately.

Susan DeRemerSusan DeRemer, CFRE
VP of Development
Discovery Eye Foundation