the importance of optometry exams

3 Eye Diseases Caused By The Sun And How To Avoid Them

Whether you spend a lot of time outdoors or not, it is important to know the sun's harsh UV rays cannot only damage your skin, but they can also damage your eyes. If you are like many people, you may wear a good pair of sunglasses on those especially sunny summer days, then stash them away in your car or a drawer during the winter. However, the sun's rays can be just as strong in the winter, as in the summer, so keep wearing protective eyewear all winter, to decrease your chances of developing the following eye diseases. 

1. Snow Blindess

If you live in a snowy area of the country, or occasionally venture to one in the winter on vacation or to enjoy snowsports, then it is important to take steps to avoid snow blindness, also called photokeratitis

While photokeratitis can occur in the absence of snow, it is more common in people who are outdoors in the snow, due to the fact that snow reflects up to 80 percent of the sun's harsh UV rays. That means that when you are outside in the snow, you are not just getting hit with the UV rays coming downward from the sun, but also the rays being reflected upward by the snow. 

Thankfully, snow blindness typically only lasts for about 24 to 48 hours and can resolve without medical treatment. However, allowing your eyes to experience sunburn can contribute to the development of more serious eye diseases later in life. 

2. Cataracts 

About 50 percent of all Americans over the age of 75 have cataracts. While there are some cataract risk factors that you cannot avoid, such as old age, too much eye exposure to the sun's harsh UV rays is one factor you can easily avoid. When the sun's UV rays hit your eye lenses, free radicals are created. Cataracts occur when the proteins in your eye lenses become damaged by free radicals, and then begin to cloud the lenses.

Currently, the only way to restore crystal clear vision after cataracts develop is to replace the lens of the eye completely with cataract surgery. You can help avoid the development of cataracts, and the need for surgery, by wearing sunglasses that block 99 to 100 percent of the sun's UV rays, when you are outdoors. 

3. Macular Degeneration

Of course, no one wants to lose their eyesight completely. However, you can lose your eyesight, if you develop macular degeneration, which is the most common cause of blindness in the United States. Many people who have begun to develop macular degeneration don't even realize they have it, until it has progressed to the point where they notice extreme vision loss. That makes it important to report any changes in your vision, no matter how small they may seem, to your optometrist as soon as you notice them. 

Like glaucoma, there are many macular degeneration risk factors, including a genetic predisposition to it. However, one risk factor you can control is excessive eye UV exposure. 

The sun's harsh rays can contribute to these three eye diseases, so be sure to wear good sunglasses not only on very sunny summer days, but also any other time you are outdoors. For more information, talk to companies like Vision Eyeland Super Optical LLC.