How many times have you been told to not look directly at the sun? While this age-old advice should be common sense, the following eye information and protection tips may be new and helpful to you in time for summer.
Common Eye Problems Caused by Warmer Weather
One of the most common eye problems during the change of seasons is eye allergies. Pollen, pollutants, and other particles like these may cause your body to react with itchy, red, and teary eyes.
Dry eye is also frequent during the summer months due to higher temperatures that cause quicker evaporation of the tear film. If you already have had eye-related issues, you may be more likely to develop dry eye.
Working in the garden and yard, especially with power tools, increases the incidence of sight-threatening injuries. The warmer season also allow us to enjoy more outdoor activities and sports. Be sure to wear eye protection during any activity that threatens your eye health.
Bacteria thrives in warmer temperatures. Conjunctivitis, sometimes called “pink eye”, is when the white part of your eye becomes inflamed due to the spread of bacteria and viruses. In addition to a pink or red presence, you can experience itchiness, watering of the eye, or a sticky discharge if your eye becomes infected. Some eye infections can even be sight-threatening.
Many people increase contact lens wear while socializing and recreating. Fungal infections from wearing contact lenses are rare but, on the rise, and can be more common in warm and humid environments.
Ultraviolet (UV) rays from sunlight are known to cause skin damage, but did you know that they can negatively affect your eyes as well? Over a long period of time, UV light has been linked to the development eyelid cancers, a disease called pinguecula or pterygium. Pterygium is also called “surfer’s eye” due to the sunny, sandy, and windy conditions that contribute to the formation of a growth on your cornea.
Shield Your Eyes
Your eyes are sensitive and it’s important to take care of them not only all year round, but especially when they are more susceptible to the previously mentioned conditions. The following suggestions can lessen your chances of dealing with these issues when you should be enjoying the sun.
- Wear Eye Protection – If you are working outdoors with tools or power equipment, make sure you have the appropriate safety glasses, shields, or goggles, in addition to following any other relevant guidelines and instructions for safe operation. Sunglasses with UV blocking lenses not only shield your eyes from UV exposure, but they also help prevent the evaporation of the eyes’ tear film. In turn, this prevents dry eye and eye allergies. Another way to help avoid eye irritation is to wear goggles when swimming. Chemicals in pools are intense for your eyes; goggles may help protect against the harmful effects.
- Wash Your Hands – Practicing hand hygiene protects the spread of germs and bacteria, especially those that can cause conjunctivitis. When you’re out and about at sports complexes, parks, and other fun outings, make an effort to wash your hands thoroughly.
- Ensure proper wear and care of contact lenses – Inappropriate cleaning or wear of contact lenses can lead to eye problems, and in some cases sight-threatening infections. Overnight wear of contact lenses or wearing lenses longer than recommended can increase the risk of these serious infections. Speak with your prescribing eye doctor about the appropriate wear and care of your contact lenses.
- Use Eye Drops – A reputable brand of over-the-counter lubricating eye drops can help with minor cases of irritation or dry eye. If symptoms persist, make sure to have your eyes examined so that the issues can be treated and to rule out any other more serious conditions.
- Stay Hydrated – Drinking enough water and eating a diet full of fruits and vegetables gives your eyes the fuel they need to stay lubricated and healthy to avoid dehydration.
If you notice any changes or have any concerns regarding the health of your eyes, do not hesitate to see your primary care doctor or optometrist. Your provider may be able to treat the eye issue, or if further care is needed, they will refer you to an ophthalmologist for specialty treatment. If you develop a sight-threatening problem or injury dial 911 or immediately be taken to the emergency room.
Wesley Adams, M.D., is with UPMC Ophthalmology and sees patients at 1705 Warren Ave., Williamsport. To schedule an appointment with Dr. Adams, call 570-320-7850. For more information, visit UPMC.com/VisionNCPA.