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PacMed doctor gives helpful tips on summer eye care safety

Protect your eyes from harmful UV rays by wearing sunglasses when exposed to sunlight. Photo credit: Juan Salamanca/Pexels

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Bathing suit? Check. Flip-flops? Check. Sunscreen? Check. As Washingtonians gear up for summer, the focus on enjoying the sunshine becomes paramount, often leaving adequate eye safety unchecked behind stylish aviators and rhinestone-bedazzled shades. Fortunately, Pacific Medical Centers' Vitreoretinal Surgeon Tony H. Huynh has a wealth of knowledge in regards to the protection and health of the eye, from summertime and beyond. After all, what good is glorious weather if one can't see it?

What are your top tips for practicing adequate eye care during summer months?

As the weather improves and the sun comes out, people naturally start wearing sunglasses more often. That is great, but it is important to remember that the type of sunglasses you wear matter, and different types can offer different levels of protection. You want to make sure the lenses in your sunglasses protect you from UV rays. Also, wrap-around type of sunglasses offer more protection compared to more traditional styles and they can block harmful UV rays that can come from the edges of more traditional style sunglasses. Protecting your eyes from harmful UV rays can help decrease the chances of damage that can occur to all layers of the eye from the macula (a part of the retina at the back of the eye) to the cornea and lens at the front of the eye. This helps prevent eye conditions such as macular degeneration, cataracts, pterygium (a growth on the eye) as well as certain eye cancers from developing. Additionally, with the summer weather, people will spend more time being active outdoors. From doing yard work to playing golf, you want to make sure you are wearing the appropriate eyewear for your activity. The eyewear should be shatter-resistant to protect your eyes from any unwanted trauma.

Do you have any special advice for individuals who wear eyeglasses or contact lenses?  

Again, you want to make sure you are protecting yourself from harmful UV rays as well as wearing eyewear that affords you the proper protection for the activity you are engaged in. Contacts and glasses that most people wear every day often don't protect against any unanticipated trauma, so you want to wear the proper eyewear for the activity you are doing. Contact lens wearers also need to be particularly mindful of taking care of their contacts as advised by their eye care professional. Increased time outdoors means increased exposure to environmental factors such as pollen. You want to keep your contact lenses clean or change them out as appropriate to minimize any complications that can occur with dirty lenses.

How does one go about maintaining proper eye health all year long? 

The most important thing to remember for maintaining eye health is the importance of preventative care and routine exams to detect and address any issues that may develop early on. Also, the advice on wearing the proper eyewear for your activity and eyewear that protects you from harmful UV rays during the summer applies year-round. Many people believe that if the sun is not out during a cloudy day that there is no exposure to UV rays. While the intensity of the UV rays may be less on a cloudy day, there are still some level of these harmful rays that make it through the clouds. For that reason, it's important to wear eyewear any time you step outside and expose yourself to UV rays. You can have lenses with little to no tint that will still protect you from UV rays. Most prescription lenses and contact lenses today are made out of materials that block UV rays.

Are there any common symptoms people may experience that could be a sign of an underlying eye health issue? 

Any change in vision can certainly be a sign of an eye condition that can be serious. When in doubt, contact your eye provider about your symptoms to see if an examination is needed. One important thing that I want to emphasize is that many serious eye diseases actually do not cause any symptoms until the later stages of the disease. Unfortunately, detecting these conditions at a later stage often means vision is lost that cannot be restored. That is why it is so important for everyone to get routine screening eye examinations with an eye provider.

Is there anything else you would like readers to know about summer eye safety? 

Prevention is the key. While there have been many advancements in medicine in the past few years, the best way to treat any eye condition is to prevent it.

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