How to keep your eyes safe from UV rays

What’s the worst thing that could happen if you forget to wear your sunglasses?

During the summer months, people tend to spend more time outdoors. If you leave your sunglasses at home, it might be tempting to shrug it off. You might need to squint a little, you figure. What’s the worst that could happen?

As it turns out, exposure to UV rays significantly increases the risk of cataracts and other eye conditions.

This cataract awareness month, Intermountain Eye Centers encourages you to take special care of your eyes and keep them safe from the sun.

What is a cataract?

A cataract is a common eye condition in which the natural lens of the eye becomes cloudy, leading to blurry vision, light sensitivity, and difficulty seeing at night.

Risk factors for developing a cataract include:

  • Older age
  • Family history of cataracts
  • Previous eye injury, surgery, or radiation treatments on the upper body
  • Using certain medications, e.g., corticosteroids
  • Other health issues, e.g., diabetes
  • Exposure to UV rays, particularly without sunglasses

Although many of us think of cataracts as having obvious symptoms, sometimes they can develop slowly. For this reason, it’s important to have regular comprehensive eye examinations, particularly as you get older. Cataracts can only be treated through surgery.

How can I keep my eyes safe this summer?

This summer, take special care to avoid harming your eyes by wearing wrap-around sunglasses that block 100 percent of UV rays. You may also want to wear a wide-brimmed hat.

There are three different types of UV rays:

  • UVA rays can pass through the cornea, damaging the eye’s lens and retina. Overexposure to UVA radiation has been linked to the development of cataracts as well as macular degeneration.
  • UVB rays are mostly filtered by the ozone layer, but can still travel down to reach your eyes. UVB rays have been linked to snow blindness and surfer’s eye.
  • UVC rays are the most dangerous type of UV radiation, but they’re almost exclusively blocked by the ozone layer.

The strength of these UV rays varies depending on time of day, geographic location, and altitude. Be sure to check your local weather report before going outside; most reports will offer insights into current UV levels.

Worried about keeping your eyes safe this summer? Contact Intermountain Eye Centers for more information about how to protect your vision from common eye diseases.

Healthy and Safe Swimming Week

The week before Memorial Day marks Healthy and Safe Swimming Week, an annual awareness week that aims to prevent drowning, pool chemical injuries, and illness outbreaks.

This year, Intermountain Eye Centers encourages our patients to pay special attention to their contact lens habits, particularly while they’re swimming.

Is it safe to wear contact lenses in water?

No! If you’re thinking about dipping into a pool, lake, or ocean this summer, you should remove your contact lenses first.

Water – even seemingly clean water – can contain countless microbes and viruses. Most of the time, your eyes naturally fight these invaders by blinking them away. When you’re wearing contact lenses, these foreign organisms can get stuck between your eye and the lens, leading to irritation, infections, or even conditions that can permanently harm your vision.

  • Acanthamoeba keratitis: Acanthamoeba keratitis is a rare, but serious condition in which an organism known as Acanthamoeba infects the cornea, leading to inflammation and potential corneal scarring. If not caught early, people with this condition may need a corneal transplant to recover their lost vision.
  • Corneal ulcer: A corneal ulcer is an open sore on the cornea, typically caused by an infection. Symptoms of corneal ulcers include pus or discharge, blurred vision, redness, severe pain, and a persistent sensation of having something in your eye. Some people may also notice a white spot on their cornea.

In addition, water can dislodge rigid gas permeable contact lenses or cause soft contact lenses to tighten around the eye. Both instances can lead to significant discomfort or worse – scratches on the surface of your eye.

What should I do if I swim in my contacts?

If water gets in your eye while swimming with contact lenses, you should immediately remove, clean, and disinfect the lenses. You should also rinse your eyes with rewetting drops or artificial tears.

Some doctors recommend throwing them away entirely. If you frequently swim while wearing contact lenses, daily disposable lenses may be the safest – and the most economical – option.

The best way to swim while still wearing your contacts is to invest in waterproof swim goggles. A good pair of goggles can protect your eyes from waterborne contaminants, as well as reduce the risk of your contacts dislodging or scratching your eyes. It’s also possible to purchase prescription swimming goggles that are custom-designed to correct your vision.

When should I see my doctor?

If you go swimming without removing your contact lenses, you might experience some unpleasant symptoms:

  • Redness
  • Irritation
  • Unusual discharge
  • Light sensitivity
  • Blurred vision

If you experience any of these symptoms, you should immediately remove and disinfect your contact lenses. If these symptoms last for more than a few hours, it’s time to contact your eye doctor.

Do you have any other questions about swimming with your contact lenses? Contact Intermountain Eye Centers today, and we’d be happy to discuss any questions you might have.

National Nutrition Month

March is National Nutrition Month, an awareness month created by the National Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. This March, Intermountain Eye Centers is celebrating National Nutrition Month by highlighting some food – and recipes – that can keep your eyes healthy. 

Low Vision Awareness Month

If you or a loved one has lost enough eyesight that it makes it difficult to do daily tasks, it may be considered low vision. Low vision is vision loss so severe that it cannot be corrected with contact lenses, glasses or even surgery. It can make it hard to read, drive, shop, watch TV or even recognize faces of those you know!

National Glaucoma Awareness Month

Glaucoma, also known as the “silent thief of sight,” is one of the leading causes of blindness worldwide. Every January, eyecare professionals like Intermountain Eye Centers promote awareness of this disorder by sharing common symptoms, risk factors, and treatment options.

Halloween Eye Safety Tips

With Halloween on the horizon, you might be tempted to invest in some spooky, colored contact lenses. After all, finding them is easy – you can buy them on the internet, in Halloween shops, or even at your local drug store. In fact, buying colored contact lenses is so easy that it’s tempting to believe they’re as harmless as a pair of fake devil horns.