Young people are particularly susceptible to harmful UV rays that affect vision. Ultraviolet (UV) protection is a risk to the eyes as well as the skin. Prolonged exposure to the sun’s UV rays without proper eye protection may cause the eyes to suffer short or long-term damage. Protection can be achieved by simple, safe, and inexpensive methods such as wearing a hat and using sunglasses that properly absorb UV radiation. Eye doctors caution that the effects of sunlight exposure are cumulative. Individuals whose work or recreational activities involve lengthy exposure to sunlight are at the greatest risk. UV radiation reflects off of surfaces such as snow, water, and white sand, so the risk is particularly high for people on beaches, boats, or ski slopes. The risk for serious damage is greatest during mid-day hours from 10:00 AM to 3:00 PM during the summer. Children and teenagers are particularly susceptible to the sun's damaging rays because they typically spend more time outdoors than adults, and the small crystalline lenses inside their eyes are more transparent than those of adults. The transparent lenses allow more light to reach the retina, the light detecting nerve tissue at the back the eye. Advise students to wear protective eyewear any time they are exposed to UV radiation, even on a cloudy day. Effective sunglasses block 99% to 100% of UV-A and UV-B radiation.
Contact lenses pose two problems for students: 1. Eye infections can be caused from contaminated contact lens storage cases as well as contamination from reuse of lens disinfecting solution. Remind your students to follow their contact lens care guidelines, including using fresh lens storage solution each time lenses are stored and frequent cleaning and replacement of contact lens cases in order to prevent contamination. 2. Wearing contact lenses longer than the recommended period can increase the risk of eye infections and disease. Wash contacts daily and replace them as prescribed.