UV Damage and Eyes - Sun Safe Tips and Risk Factors
31st OF October 2012
By now we know to slip on a t-shirt, slop on some sunscreen, and slap on a hat, but five years ago the Cancer Council added ‘seek’ and ‘slide’ to their iconic campaign to encourage people to seek out the shade and slide on a pair of sunglasses. With 90% of skin cancers occurring above the neck and up to 10% on the eyelids - the latter part of this addition is more important than you may have realised.
By Chloe Schneider
New research shows that more than nine million sun savvy Australians are exposing themselves to eye damage or even vision loss because they’re forgetting to follow sun safety rules on cloudy days – especially wearing sunglasses and hats to protect the delicate eye area from UV damage.
Repeated exposure can cause serious eye conditions including cataracts, pterygia, skin cancer of the eyelids, and macular degeneration which can, in extreme cases, lead to vision loss. OPSM is encouraging Australians to get ‘Cloud Smart’ as well as ‘Sun Smart’ this summer to avoid this sort of damage. We spoke to Anthea Muir, Senior Optometrist from OPSM, a few questions about why Aussies need to get smart about UV protection and how we can ensure we’re protected…
RESCU: What happens to our eyes if they are exposed to too much sun?
Anthea Muir: UV exposure can be very damaging. Your eyes are more delicate than your skin and repeated UV exposure can cause eye conditions such as cataracts, macular degeneration, pterygia and even cancer of the eyelids.
Don’t be fooled by clouds, cold days or haze; UV exposure can be just as high on these days so it is important to always wear sunglasses to protect your eyes when outdoors.
RESCU: How to we ensure our sunglasses are adequate protection?
Anthea Muir: All sunglasses for sale in Australia should block 100% UV as they are controlled by the Australian standards. In addition to UV protection you should make sure the sunglasses fit properly to your face as this will reduce UV rays sneaking around the glasses and limit the wind exposure to the eye that can also be damaging.
OPSM staff are specially trained to ensure the fit is right. Also if you wear a hat this dramatically reduces UV exposure.
RESCU: We know to get regular skin cancer checks - is there something similar we can do for our eyes?
Anthea Muir: Everyone should have their eyes checked at least every two years. This allows your Optometrist to monitor your eye health and enables us to also spot any eye conditions early and prevents them from getting worse.
Between checks look after eyes as you would your skin, slide on sunglasses and add a broad brimmed hat to add even more protection.
RESCU: Are some people at an increased risk? If so, who?
Anthea Muir: Everyone is at risk from UV damage from babies to seniors. As UV damage is cumulative and irreversible it is important for everyone to protect their eyes from a young age – it should be part of your daily routine.
Children’s eyes up to the age of 10 do not have as good natural protection from UV as adults so children need to be even more diligent.
People taking medications that increase their sensitivity to light should also take special care. Check with your doctor on your medication.
Remember, clouds do not mean you can neglect your sun safety routine – slip, slop, slap, seek, and slide no matter what the weather!
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