What is “ultraviolet”? UV light is a type of electromagnetic radiation that is invisible to humans. When exposed to high amounts, UV can cause damage to living tissue, including your eyes.
Fun fact: certain bugs and insects can see UV rays, so bug zappers utilize UV light to lure them into a trap!
How does this affect my eyes? There are many conditions that can be caused by or exacerbated by exposure to UV light.
- UV keratitis or photokeratitis: essentially a “sunburn” to your eye, it can be very painful, cause redness, excessive tearing, photosensitivity, and a foreign body sensation.
- Cataracts: exposure to UV light can exacerbate the growth of cataracts, resulting in decreased vision, worsening nighttime vision, and a sooner need for cataract surgery
- Age-related Macular Degeneration (ARMD): a leading cause of blindness in the western world, continuous exposure to UV radiation can cause or exacerbate ARMD
- Ocular melanoma (eye cancer): the pigmented parts of your eye can develop cancer from exposure to UV light
- Pinguecula: UV light can damage the sclera (the white parts of your eye) and cause growths, which overtime can progress and cause changes to your vision
How can I prevent this? Wearing UV protection, such as sunglasses and hats with brims.
- All glasses made at Family Vision Center come with UV protection
- Majority of sunglasses provide some form of UV protection – aim for 100% UV protection of both UV-A and UV-B
- Larger lens and wrap around frames provide more UV protection for your eyes
- Wearing hats with wide brims can help decrease the amount of UV exposure
- Avoid outdoor activities between 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. when sunlight is the strongest.
There are also indoor risks for UV damage! Watch out for artificial sources of UV light, including welding machines, tanning beds, and lasers. If you work in an environment that involves UV light, make sure you’re wearing appropriate eyewear to protect yourself.
Q: What happens if I look at the sun?
A: Solar retinopathy – irreversible damage to the eyes. You could potentially lose your central vision and see dark spots. Avoid looking directly at the sun!
Q: Is there a certain style of sunglasses that I should be looking for?
A: The bigger the better! Having a larger lens provides more coverage against UV protection. Wrap-around frames are also a great idea for more coverage.
Your eyelid is very important, and not just for blinking! They protect your eyes from dirt and other contaminants, block light when it’s time for you to sleep, house the glands that are used to prevent tear evaporation, and move your tears to help with dry eyes.
Eyelid hygiene plays an important role in the overall health of your eyes. By taking care of your lids and lashes, you can help treat dry eyes, prevent styes, and improve your ocular health.
What bad things can be happening with dirty eyelids?
- Demodex: mites that live at the base of your eyelashes and consume sebum in the glands of your eyelid. They burrow themselves deep into your glands and their exoskeleton induces a response from your body, causing dandruff of your eyelashes, redness, itching, burning, tearing, and other symptoms.
- Blepharitis: inflammation of your eyelids, it can contribute to dry eyes and irritation.
- Styes: an infection of oil glands in the eyelid
- Dry eyes: eyelids that are not healthy cannot produce the proper tears our eyes need to stay hydrated, resulting in symptoms such as fluctuating vision, sandy, gritty feeling of your eyes, redness, and more.
Treatment you can do at home: Cleaning your eyelids!
Cleaning your eyelids is easy:
- Wash your hands
- Use a clean cloth and baby shampoo, or lid wipes such as OcuSoft
- Close your eyes and gently wipe from one side of your eyelids and eyelashes to the other side (avoid being aggressive and irritating your skin!)
- Rinse with clean water
- Repeat for other eye
Improving the health of your eyelids does not happen overnight. It is recommended to clean your eyelashes on a daily basis, typically at nighttime before bed to help remove any contaminants gathered during the day.
Fun fact: the thinnest skin on your body is your eyelids!
Building good habits
Other things that you can do to help keep your eyelid clean…
- Remove all makeup with proper cleaning material
- Wash hands frequently and before insertion or removal of your contact lenses
- Avoid touching your eyes (especially avoid rubbing your eyes!)
- Regularly doing warm compresses if you are prone to styes
If you are regularly cleaning your eyelids and still having issues with flaking, irritation, redness, or other issues with your eyelid, it is recommended that you make an appointment with your optometrist to check for underlying issues and discuss treatment options.
Allergies and Your Eyes
Allergic conjunctivitis is inflammation of the conjunctiva (white part of your eye) caused by an allergic reaction. Common causes of allergic conjunctivitis are household dust, animal dander, pollen, mold spores, and chemicals found in detergents or perfume. Common symptoms of allergic conjunctivitis include:
- Intense itching of eyes
- Red eyes
- Watery eyes
- Mucus discharge
- Swollen eyelids
As the seasons change, tree and grass pollen can cause some unwanted itchy eyes, runny nose, and nasal congestion. What can you do about the itchy and red eyes?
- Over the counter (OTC) eyedrops
- Zaditor (safe for kids 3+ yrs)
- Cold compresses
- Washing your face after exposure to allergens
- Frequent washing of bedsheets and clothes
- Shower before bedtime to wash off any allergens
Allergy eye drops can also dry your eyes out, so it is recommended to also use artificial tears as a lubricating drop after using OTC allergy eye drops. Some recommendations for those are:
- Refresh Tears
- Systane Complete
- BioTrue Preservative-free lubricant eye drops
Things to avoid:
- Rubbing your eyes
- Going outdoors during peak allergy season
- Irritants such as cigarette smoke, strong odors, or fire smoke
Q: I wear contact lenses. Can I use the eyedrops with them?
A: Do not put eyedrops in your eye while wearing contact lenses. After putting eyedrops in, wait 10 minutes before putting your contact lens in.
Q: Why is eye rubbing a bad thing?
A: Rubbing your eyes can damage your cornea. Having allergic conjunctivitis and eye rubbing can increase chances of corneal deformation by 37%. Eye rubbing not only induces mechanical damage to the cornea but can also promote production of inflammatory molecules, causing the symptoms of allergic conjunctivitis to get worse.
Q: The OTC allergy eye drops are not completely resolving my issues. Is there anything else I can do?
A: We recommend calling our office (303-427-2020) for a medical office visit to tackle your problem. This office visit includes a thorough check of the health of your eyes to evaluate the level of your allergic conjunctivitis and for any underlying conditions that may be exacerbating your symptoms. In cases where OTC eyedrops do not work for moderate to severe allergic conjunctivitis, there are additional options that can be prescribed that is not available over the counter.