Whilst sun exposure is an excellent source of vitamin D, not taking the necessary protective measures during the summer can have damaging effects on the eyes. Spending a lot of time under direct sun light and heat may accelerate the aging process of the eyes and lead to conditions such as cataracts and macular degeneration.
With temperatures reaching as high as 48°C in the UAE, our eyes are at risk of developing corneal burns, also known as photokeratitis. Therefore, it is extremely important to take the necessary precautions while enjoying summer activities in the sun.
Dr. Avi Gurbaxani, Consultant Ophthalmologist, Medical Retina & Uveitis Specialist, Moorfields Eye Hospital Dubai shares six effective tips to protect your eyes in the summer.
- Wear sunglasses with full UV protection – Increased exposure to UV radiation can damage the macula, a central part of the retina at the back of the eye, which gives us the ability to have the perfect, colored vision. UV radiation may also harm the front part of the eye (cornea and lens) leading to cataracts (clouding of lens), macular degeneration, pterygium (benign growth on the white of the eye) and corneal sunburn, which is painful and might cause temporary vision loss. Thus, medical grade tinted glasses that can block up to 100% of the sun’s UV radiations are essential for protecting your eyes in the summer.
- Lubricate your eyes – High temperatures and dry winds outdoors can lead to increased dry eye . Air conditioning use increases during summer which also leads to dry eye symptoms worsening. The best and most immediate way to address eye dryness is by using artificial tears to keep the eyes moist and refreshed.
- Nourish your body with antioxidants – Constant exposure to the sun’s rays can produce free radicals, roaming atoms in the body that can oxidize and damage the retina. Hence, consuming a diet that is rich in antioxidants will help cancel out the effects of free radicals. Antioxidants such as Lutein, zeaxanthin, and vitamins C can be found in oranges, berries and leafy vegetables and can be easily integrated into your diet.
- Stay hydrated – In general, drinking water is extremely important to maintain healthy functioning organs. Considering that the summer heat can make us lose more water through sweat, we need to drink more water to compensate for this loss. Also, if you drink diuretics such as coffee, consider drinking at least 2 litres of water per day. Dehydration is a leading cause of dry eye and irritation, so it is imperative to maintain balanced hydration levels during the summer months.
- Always wear swimming goggles –Summer is synonymous with swimming. If you enjoy swimming, consider investing in goggles to protect your eyes. Pools are often disinfected with harsh sanitizers such as chlorine. Thus, using goggles can protect your eyes from coming in contact with potent sanitizers and reduce the likelihood of contracting an eye infection such as conjunctivitis, which leaves the surface of the eye red and dry.
- Avoid swimming with contacts – Another important precaution to take is to remove your contact lenses before swimming. In fact, swimming with contacts can have sight-threatening effects such as ulcers and infections. Additionally, pool or beach water is home to many microbes such as Acanthamoeba, which can result in infections in the eye and serious complications.