Exposure to the sun’s ultraviolet rays harms not just your skin, but also your eyes. Protect your peepers from short- and long-term damage with good-quality sunglasses
You apply sunscreen daily to prevent skin cancer and sunburn and to ward off fine lines, wrinkles and pigmentation – the top signs of skin ageing ‒ but how do you protect your eyes? Did you know that the sun’s ultraviolet rays can do far worse damage to this very sensitive part of your face? If you don’t wear sunglasses when you leave the house, perhaps it’s time to start, as over-exposure to the sun can have serious effects on your vision and the health of your eyes.
SOME SUN EXPOSURE IS GOOD
You may try to stay out of the sun as much as possible to protect your skin and eyes, but some exposure is good, even essential, says Dr Eugene Tay, an ophthalmologist and medical director at Singapore Vision Centre.
Ultraviolet (UV) light is usually invisible under normal conditions. Part of the electromagnetic spectrum, it is present in sunlight so we are exposed to it when we are outdoors. “UV light is useful in that it helps the body produce vitamin D,” says Dr Tay. Also called the sunshine vitamin, vitamin D is important for the health of the skeletal and immune system, and has been shown to play an important role in the prevention of depression and other mental health issues. “Some UV light exposure is therefore good for us,” Dr Tay adds. “In Singapore, we usually get enough UV light exposure through our daily activities.”
FEEL THE BURN
Unfortunately, overexposure to UV light can also harm our eyes, causing both short- and long-term side effects. If your eyes are not protected, you may find yourself squinting to shield your eyes from the sun’s glare. Constant squinting stresses the muscles around your eyes, causing eye fatigue. In the short term, intense exposure to UV light can also cause photo-keratitis, says Dr Tay. This condition is typically seen in skiers who suffer from “snow blindness”, and welders who suffer from “Arc Eye”. With photo-keratitis, the corneal epithelium, or the outer layer of the front of the cornea, becomes painful and irritated. The eyes may also become watery from the irritation. Fortunately, these symptoms are easily resolved with medical treatment.
Overexposure to high levels of UV light can also lead to more serious problems such as cataracts, pterygium – a fleshy overgrowth of the conjunctiva, which is the thin clear membrane on the surface of the eye, retinal degeneration, and rarely, conjunctival carcinoma. Dr Tay says that these conditions usually require a combination of medication and surgery to treat.
IN THE SHADES
Dr Tay advises you to wear protective eyewear if you’re going to be outdoors for a prolonged period. The style of sunglasses is up to you, but it’s important to choose a pair that has 100 per cent UV light protection.
“There are differences to the tint of the lens, and your eye-care professional can help you select the best type based on your requirements,” he adds. “Polarised lenses cut down glare and are useful for people who participate in water or snow sports. Photochromic lenses, such as Transitions automatically darken when exposed to UV light both indoors and outdoors, and may be more convenient for ‘round the clock’ protection. Wraparound styles offer more protection as they limit the amount of UV light entering around the frame.”
HAZE IN YOUR EYES
It’s one thing to protect your nose and mouth, but sunglasses are also essential on hazy days. Dust and very small foreign particles are typically flushed away by tears and blinking, but Dr Tay says that when there is prolonged exposure to particulate debris, such as those found in the haze, the eye may become irritated, and conjunctivitis – inflammation of the conjunctiva – may develop. Lubricating eye-drops purchased over the counter can help, but if the air is particularly bad, you may wish to use protective goggles.
KEEP YOUR EYES OPEN FOR THESE FASHIONABLE FRAMES
Now we’ve convinced you that you really do need to wear sunglasses, here are some rather fashionable pairs to try ...
Italian luxury brand Max Mara has just launched its collaboration project with mural artist Maya Hayuk called Optiprism. These sunglasses are super elegant, with bold faceted frames in classic colours. These rather large sunglasses are perfect for the old celebrity hide-half-your-face street style look, don’t you think? Max Mara X Maya Hayuk Optiprism sunglasses, $360, are available from Max Mara boutiques and high-end opticians.
The latest cult sunglasses from Dior ‒ the luxury fashion brand that brought us the Instagram-popular SoReal style ‒ are the brilliant DiorAbstract sunglasses. The mix of metal and acetate and the ultra flat mirrored lenses are reminiscent of the Dior So Real ones but more streamlined and less “obvious” making them much easier to wear on a daily basis.
DiorAbstract sunglasses are available from Dior boutiques.
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