Summer is synonymous with sun, which allows us to get that all-important dose of vitamin D, and swimming, especially for those living in the region. However, it also means dealing with scorching temperatures, and not taking the necessary measures to protect our eyes throughout the season can have damaging effects. If we don’t make an effort of save our peepers from harm, there’s a risk of developing corneal burns, also known as photokeratitis. Plus, spending lots of time under direct sun light and heat can accelerate the ageing process around the eyes and lead to conditions such as cataracts and macular degeneration.
Dr Avi Gurbaxani, Consultant Ophthalmologist, Medical Retina & Uveitis Specialist at Dubai’s Moorfields Eye Hospital, shares six effective and simple tips to protect your eyes while enjoying those summer activities in the sun.
1. Make sure your sunglasses have full UV protection
Increased exposure to UV radiation can damage the macula, a central part of the retina at the back of the eye that ensures we have perfect, coloured vision. UV radiation may also harm the front part of the eye (cornea and lens) leading to cataracts (clouding of lens) and macular degeneration, pterygium (benign growth on the white of the eye). Additionally, there’s a chance of corneal sunburn, which is painful and can sometimes cause temporary vision loss. So while shopping for those sunnies, reach out for some medical grade tinted ones that can block up to 100 percent of the sun’s UV radiations.
2. Lubricate your eyes
In addition to high temperatures and dry winds outdoors, increased air conditioning use during the summer can cause dry eye symptoms. The best and quickest way to treat dryness is to use artificial tears to keep the eyes moist and refreshed.
3. Boost your antioxidant intake
Constant exposure to the sun’s rays can produce free radicals, roaming atoms in the body that can oxidise and damage the retina. So by consuming a diet that is rich in antioxidants, you can help cancel out the effects of free radicals. Antioxidants like lutein, zeaxanthin, and vitamins C can be found in oranges, berries and leafy vegetables, making them easy to add to your daily diet.
4. Drink lots of water
Drinking water is extremely important to maintain healthy, functioning organs and since sweating during summer makes us lose more water, we need to drink more than usual to make up for the deficit. What’s more, if you love coffee or other diuretics, try and drink at least two litres of water per day. Dehydration is a leading cause of dry eye and irritation, so it is really important to sustain balanced hydration levels throughout the summer.
5. Don’t forget to pack swimming goggles
It’s difficult to spend time at the pool without taking a refreshing plunge. However, while doing this, you should always try and wear protective goggles. Pools are often disinfected with harsh sanitizers such as chlorine, and using goggles can protect your eyes from coming in contact with these strong purifiers. It also reduces the likelihood of contracting an eye infection such as conjunctivitis, which leaves the surface of the eye red and dry.
6. Remove your contacts while swimming
Taking off your contact lenses before swimming is an important precaution as splashing around with them on can have sight-threatening effects, such as ulcers and infections. Additionally, pool or beach water is home to many microbes such as acanthamoeba, which can cause eye infections and serious complications.