Protecting your eyes from sunlight

Eau Claire, WI (WEAU) -- We often worry about our skin getting sunburned but don't usually think about the damage the sun can do to another delicate organ, our eyes. And, without proper protection we could be doing severe and potentially irreversible damage.

Cornea specialist, Dr. Thomas Harvey with the Chippewa Valley Eye Clinic, says the summer is especially troublesome. Dr. Harvey says, “We do see a variety of UV related eye disease, patients that come in, especially this time of year because we have more sunlight.”

Dr. Harvey says more daylight means longer exposure to UV light which can potentially harm our eyes. He says, "The most common thing, as a cornea specialist, that I see are ocular surface UV damage problems and those can arise as little bumps that end up turning into cancer, and those definitely require either expensive medication or surgery."

Dr. Harvey says when cancer forms on the surface of the eye there is also a risk that scar tissue can form making the eyes dryer and vision blurrier. He also says UV damage can create early onset cataracts but there are steps you can take to prevent injury.

"One of the key recommendations we have is to make use of UV protection, whether that's in the form of a hat or sunglass, or sometimes even wearing a contact lens will block some of the UV light that would normally reach the eye." says Dr. Harvey.

Dr. Harvey says just about any pair of sunglasses will filter out harmful UV light but those with a family history of skin cancer may want to look into glasses with stronger UV protection, as well as those with fairer complexions,

"Skin type also matters because people who have a pigment in the skin seemingly are a little bit better at handling the sunlight, as are people with a darker iris. They seem to lower the risk factor of UV damage actually occurring in the eye." says Dr. Harvey.

And, now that the weather is nicer you may want to watch the sunset but Dr. Harvey says even when the sun is low in the sky more than a quick glance can be harmful, so make sure to keep your eyes protected.

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