Do you protect your eyes enough in summer?

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Sunscreen, a cap to prevent heatstroke, water to stay hydrated ... We take all of these extremely important precautions almost instinctively when summer arrives and we want to enjoy the sun safely, but did you know that your eyes also need special care at this time of year?

Vision needs to be looked after throughout the year, but, if there is a season when we should pay special attention to our eyes and be very serious about taking precautions to protect them, it is the summer. IMO wants to help you to enjoy the sun and all of the refreshing activities that you do during the summer holidays with maximum safety for your eyes. The precautions that you should take at this time of the year to look after your vision are as simple as they are effective.

Under the sun: protect your eyes as much as you protect your skin

Summer is the time of year with the greatest amount of solar radiation. This means that ultraviolet (UV) rays have a particularly high intensity, which results in a greater possibility of causing damage to sensitive areas of the body. These are the main problems that exposure to UV rays can cause the eyes:

Actinic keratosis

This can appear after prolonged exposure of the eyes to the sun without adequate protection.

What are the symptoms?

Pain, photophobia (abnormal intolerance to light), tearing and red eye. These symptoms usually last for one or two days and disappear without after-effects.

How should you protect yourself?

Use approved sunglasses with UV filters. For additional protection, especially for children, wear a peaked cap.

Conjunctival degeneration

The most widespread is pterygium, an abnormal growth of the conjunctiva over the cornea that mainly occurs due to exposure to the sun and dryness, and is, consequently, more common in people who carry out activities in the open air. It appears as a raised whitish area on the inner and/or outer edge of the cornea.

What are the symptoms?

It is a painless abnormality, whose symptoms depend mainly on the size of the lesion. Small lesions can be asymptomatic, but, as they grow, they can cause discomfort on the ocular surface, such as dry eye, tearing and foreign body sensation. Care should be taken with pterygium, because, in severe cases, it can compromise vision.

How should you protect yourself?

As in the case of keratitis, use approved sunglasses with UV filters and, as additional protection, especially for children, wear a peaked cap.

Other conditions

Although they appear less frequently than keratitis or conjunctival degeneration, UV rays can also cause disorders of the retina and even accelerate the process of developing cataracts. The preventative measure for this and any other conditions, caused or aggravated by solar radiation, is the use of approved sunglasses with filters.

gafas de sol homologadas To protect your eyes from the sun, the best solution is to use approved sunglasses that filter UV rays.

Swimming pools: be careful with chlorine

Chlorine is essential to keeping swimming pools clean and sanitary due to its disinfectant action. An excess of chlorine, however, can be harmful to the eyes, even when the proportion of chlorine is appropriate. For some people, it can cause eye irritation, which manifests itself about half an hour after bathing.

Another risk associated with swimming pools is the proliferation of the bacteria Acanthamoeba, a cellular organism that affects contact lens wearers and causes keratitis. Finally, excess chlorine or bathing in insufficiently treated water multiplies the risk of contracting conjunctivitis.

How should you protect yourself?

The main preventative measure is to avoid direct eye contact with the water by using swimming goggles or a diving mask to isolate the eye hermetically. If conjunctivitis is suspected (redness, itching, foreign body sensation, eyelid swelling, tearing and discharges, among other symptoms), it is advisable to visit the ophthalmologist, who will identify the origin of the condition and determine the appropriate treatment. It should be noted that conjunctivitis is very contagious, so precautions must be taken to avoid spreading it to others.

Other recommendations that should be followed to avoid eye infections in swimming pools:

  1. Do not share towels or any clothing or items that can come into contact with the eyes.
  2. Avoid touching your eyes with your hands.
  3. Only bathe in designated and managed swimming areas.
  4. Do not to use make-up when bathing.
Your eyes also need special care in the summer. By following a few simple recommendations, you can enjoy the sun with the reassurance that it will not damage your eyes.

Air conditioning: the danger of causing dry eyes

When temperatures rise persistently, it is inevitable that most indoor spaces will have the air conditioning on, often programmed with temperatures that are much lower than is strictly necessary. It is important to be careful with air conditioning, as it dries the eyes even more than heating. Inside aircraft, for example, the atmosphere is drier than the desert. Furthermore, summer is also a time of eye allergies, especially those caused by grass pollen, whose symptoms are quite similar to those of dry eye.

How should you protect yourself?

The best way to protect yourself from dryness caused by air conditioning is to use artificial tears without preservatives. Allergies, however, although they have symptoms that are very similar to those caused by dry eye, have different causes, so it is important to distinguish between the two conditions, since both their preventative measures and treatments are different. For more information on this topic, you can consult the article How to distinguish between dry eye and allergies?, with explanations by Dr Óscar Gris from IMO’s Cornea and Refractive Surgery Department.

Also look after the most important eyes of all: those of your children

In closing, we want to emphasise the point that, if it is important for adults to pay closer attention to their eyes during the summer, in the case of children, taking precautions can be decisive, since their eyes are much more sensitive to sunlight, because their crystalline lenses filter less effectively than those of adults.

To this, we also need to add that children spend longer amounts of time in swimming pools and the sea or playing in the open air; if they do so regularly without any type of eye protection, it could ultimately result in the onset of cataracts much earlier. It is, therefore, essential to take precautions to also protect the eyes of children, and above all in the summer.

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