All of us are exposed to sunlight on a daily basis. However, without proper protection, the sun can cause serious and, in some cases, irreversible disease. Therefore, it is necessary to understand when and how we should protect ourselves from UV rays.
Sunlight is necessary for life on our planet, but daily exposure to sun radiation without taking proper precautions can cause damage to our health and sight. Protecting ourselves from sunlight is therefore essential, even when we are not directly exposed to light.
UV rays can reflect on surfaces. Sand, snow or any other light-coloured surface can redirect UV radiation, which will consequently hit our eyes. Shade can only reduce UV rays by 50%, as is the case when it rains.
Unprotected exposure can cause reactions such as photosensitivity and corneal burns. It can also represent a risk factor for the onset of cataracts and maculopathies.
Our cornea acts as the primary filter that blocks sunlight radiation, so it is also the first tissue that could be potentially damaged.
It is also important to protect children’s eyes, especially when they are outdoors during the hours when sunlight is most intense.
The same precautions should apply to the elderly, who suffer more from photophobia, especially those who have had cataract surgery.
It is important not to overlook adults and sportspeople, since protection from excessive exposure to sunlight is necessary for anybody that spends many hours outdoors everyday.
The most effective way to protect our eyes is wearing UV protective sunglasses.
Besides reducing the perception of visible light, dark lenses absorb all UV rays and can also be used by people affected by illnesses, such as retinopathies, cataracts and maculopathies, to protect their eyes.
Protection lenses can have a coloured filter of different shades: green, grey, brown and mirrored. In order to actually protect the eyes, it is very important that dark lenses comply with applicable laws and regulations, which require sunglasses to display a label indicating the sun protection factor and the CE trademark (UNI-EN-ISO 1836), and has been in place since 1 July, 1995.
With regard to protecting children’s eyes, it is recommended to use shatterproof lenses with a grey or brown filter, since they have a filtering power of up to 100% but do not
interfere with colour perception. It is also essential that both eyes are fully covered, so that the entire visual field is protected.
Don’t forget about other forms of protection, such as broad-brimmed hats.
The shaded area provided by the hat will significantly decrease the amount of sunlight that the eyes are exposed to.
It is essential to remember to take advantage of all of these kinds of protection every time we are exposed to strong sunlight, for example at the seaside, in the mountains, when outdoors and during the hours of most intense sunlight radiation (even when it is filtered by clouds): between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m.