Sun Gets In Your Eyes: Protecting Your Peepers

Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past decade (and if you have been, sun exposure isn’t a problem for you, so just ignore this post), you’ve heard the bad news about sun exposure. Apparently, compulsive tanning, or even just a really bad sunburn, can result in nasty things like skin cancer, wrinkles and having to spend a lot of time at the doctor’s office alternately getting botoxed and biopsied. (Not fun.)

Fortunately, the efforts of modern science have resulted in high-performance sunscreens. Slap the stuff on exposed skin in a liberal fashion and keep reapplying it through the day and you’ll go a long way toward keeping your skin smooth and health (Cue “Big Sigh of Relief.” …Well, not yet.) See, while it is reasonably easy to protect your skin from damaging ultra violet (UV) rays, your eyes are another matter. After all, they pretty much exist to detect and absorb light (so that you can see things) and they don’t react well to dabs of sunscreen. But too much UV radiation isn’t any better for your eyes than it is for your skin and, in fact, some pretty nasty things can happen when you don’t protect your eyes from sunlight:

• Eyelid Sunburn: Eyelid burns are extremely painful, not to mention unattractive, so protecting your eyelids should be a top priority while you are out and about.

Skin Damage: The über-sensitive skin around your eyes is also über-prone to wrinkling. Without consistently using UV protection on and around your eyes, you may be aging them before their time. This is not a good thing.

Photokeratitis and Photoconjunctivitis: Nope, you haven’t been swirling your alphabet soup, photokeratitis and photoconjunctivitis are real words and real conditions. Photokeratitis is akin to a cornea sunburn and photoconjunctivitis is a similar affliction that affects the membranes on your eye sockets and the whites of your eyes. Both conditions are decidedly painful and unpleasant, though they generally don’t cause lasting harm, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

Cataracts: While treatable, cataracts remain the top cause of blindness in the world. WHO notes that there is a connection between unprotected exposure to sunlight (UVB radiation, to be specific) and developing cataracts.

Cancer: Yep, the Big C. The Skin Cancer Foundation states that five to ten percent of all skin cancers are eyelid skin cancers. Melanoma (the deadliest type of skin cancer) can occur on the eyeball. While doctors do their best to save the vision of patients with this condition, in some cases the eye must be removed.

(What to Do? What to Do?)

While all this sounds a bit scary, it’s good to know that protecting your eyes (and the skin around them) is actually pretty easy. Using sunscreens and cosmetics that contain sunscreen can help protect your eyelids and under-eye area. If you have sensitive eyes, consumer advocate Paula Begoun suggests using a mineral sunscreen (look for zinc oxide or titanium dioxide as its active ingredient), which is less likely to cause irritation.

(Get Your Eyes Covered)

Another option is to wear sunglasses or eyeglasses with a protective UV coating. Their lenses protect your eyes, and the skin around your eyes, as you go about your daily activities. Prescription sunglasses make a great deal of sense if you are outside a lot, but even regular glasses can provide UV protection. In fact, your regular eyeglasses should provide you with UV protection (ditch them if they don’t), as exposure to damaging rays can happen even on cloudy days, when shades aren’t appropriate.

(Here Comes the Pitch!)

You’ll be happy to know that all Zenni prescription glasses come with full UV protection, keeping your eyes healthy and beautiful for a long time to come. Check out the site to see your frame options and find the pair that suits you best.