Those who enjoy basking in the sun and lounging by the pool have been disappointed with the Finger Lakes weather this May and June, but they remain hopeful for hot, sunny weather as the official start of summer approaches.
With that in mind, Dr. Anna Rothstein of The Eye Care Center — which has locations in Geneva, Canandaigua, and Newark — recently answered some questions about keeping your eyes healthy this season.
Q: Is there such a thing as sunburn of the eye?
A: Yes. It is called photokeratitis, which is a painful eye condition caused by damage to the eye from UV (ultraviolet) rays — either from the sun or man-made source. This condition affects the thin surface layer of the eye and the inside of the eyelids.
Photokeratitis can be caused by sun reflection from sand, water, ice and snow. It can also occur from staring at the sun, such as watching a solar eclipse directly.
This condition may be prevented by wearing proper eye protection that blocks or absorbs 99 percent or more of UV rays.
Q: What is the best way to protect the eye from UV rays?
A: Wear sunglasses labeled “100% UV protection” — ones that block both UV-A and UV-B rays and are labeled either UV400 or 100% UV protection. Wraparound styles work best, so the sun’s rays can’t enter from the side.
Those who use UV-blocking contact lenses still need sunglasses. Wear a broad-brimmed hat along with sunglasses.
Clouds don’t block UV light — the sun’s rays can pass through haze and clouds. Sun damage to the eyes can occur any time of year, not just in summer.
Q: Is “swimmer’s eye” a concern, both for kids and adults?
A: Yes. Chlorine and other chemicals used to keep pool water clean can wash away parts of the protective tear film of the eyes, leaving the surface and edges of the eyes red, itchy, watery, and uncomfortable.
Wearing a pair of swim goggles will protect the eyes. Goggles keep pool chemicals out of the eyes, helping to keep the tear film healthy.
Using over-the-counter lubricating eye drops before putting goggles on and after swimming will keep the tear film balanced and eyes comfortable.
Splash closed eyes with fresh water immediately after swimming. This washes chlorine and other chemicals off the eyelids and eyelashes.
Staying well hydrated is also an important part of keeping the eyes moist and comfortable.
Q: Are dry eyes a concern in hot weather?
A: It depends on the humidity level. If the humidity level is high, it can actually help dry eyes. If the humidity level is low, as in Las Vegas, dry eyes will worsen.
Using over-the-counter artificial tears more frequently is important, as well as staying hydrated.
Q: What eye safety tips do you recommend for people working around their home?
A: Wearing protective eye wear reduces the risk for an eye injury by 90 percent. Every household should have at least one pair of ANSI-approved protective eyewear, and it should be worn with projects or activities that could pose a risk for eye injuries.
Such activities include:
• Cleaning. Chemicals like bleach in household cleaning products can cause eye injuries.
• Home improvement. Screws, nails and hand tools can become projectiles, while power tools can propel wood chips or other substances into the air.
• Yard work. Lawnmowers, trimmers and even shovels can throw dirt and debris into the air. Branches, twigs and thorns can also be dangerous.
Proper protective eyewear should be marked with “ANSI Z87.1” on the lens or frame. This means the glasses, goggles or face shield meet the American National Standards Institute Z87.1 safety standard.