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How to keep your eyes comfortable in summer

PUBLISHED: 17:04 01 August 2018 | UPDATED: 17:04 01 August 2018

Keep your eyes comfortable this summer (photo: Shutterstock)

Keep your eyes comfortable this summer (photo: Shutterstock)

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Sun damage and dry eye syndrome caused by hay fever or air conditioning are some of the drawbacks of summer. Leightons Opticians & Hearing Care have your guide to keeping comfortable

Ah, summer: glorious hot sunny days, day after day, week after week… and this year, it’s even happening in the UK! Sadly summer isn’t all sunshine and happiness – for our eyes, it can mean squinting uncomfortably in bright light and unbearable itchiness when the dreaded hay fever strikes. To avoid a miserable season of UV damage and dry eye, take a look at our guide to keeping your eyes comfortable in summer.

How much damage can the sun really do to our eyes?

We are all generally well aware of the dangers that exposure to the sun’s UV rays pose to our skin, but far fewer of us consider the effects on our eyes. Our eyes are 10x more sensitive to UV light than our skin, whilst the delicate skin around our eyes is also very susceptible to damage. Long term exposure to UV is proven to greatly increase the risk of a number of serious eye conditions, including age-related macular degeneration (AMD) and cataracts.

According to research by the Skin Care Foundation, up to 80% of the sun’s UV rays can penetrate clouds, so even if you’re not basking in the heat, your eyes could still be at risk. Furthermore, more than 50% of the UV our eyes receive is indirect, meaning it could be glare reflected off glass or a wet road.

The best defence you can give your eyes against the harmful effects of the sun’s rays, whether on a sunny or cloudy day, is a pair of UV-rated sunglasses. The best sunglasses to look out for have a UV400 filter, which prevents 99-100% of UV rays from entering your eyes. As a minimum, they should block 95% of UVA and 99% of UVB rays: any less is simply cosmetic. They should also always be CE marked as a guarantee of their UV protection.

Combatting dry eye syndrome

Dry eye is a common condition where the eyes either do not produce enough tears, or the tears that are produced are of poor quality, meaning that the eyes are not sufficiently lubricated. This can result in an itchy, gritty feeling, as though you have something in your eye. The whites of your eyes can appear red, and it can also cause blurry vision. Confusingly, excessive watering of your eyes is also a symptom of dry eye – this is your body responding to the lack of lubrication in your eyes by flooding them with low quality tears.

There is no single cause of dry eye, although there can be many contributing factors. In the summer, air conditioning in the office or car can cause your tears to evaporate faster than usual, whilst hay fever and allergies, dry air in aeroplanes and even swimming pools can also trigger the condition.

Dry eyes can be easily diagnosed at an optician practice. The optometrist will assess the front of your eye (the anterior eye) and use a fluorescein or lissamine green dye test to show damaged cells and examine the flow of tears.

Dry eye syndrome can be relieved with artificial tear eye drops, which are clinically proven to ease the itching and discomfort in your eyes by hydrating and protecting their surface. You can also give your natural tears a boost by drinking fluids to stay properly hydrated, and eating foods containing omegas 3 and 6 such as walnuts, sunflower seeds and oily fish.

For summer and beyond

Whatever the season and whatever the weather, you should never take the health of your eyes for granted. If you would like more information on dry eye syndrome or want to find that perfect pair of sunglasses, including prescription sunglasses, speak to your local independent experts at Leightons Opticians & Hearing Care. Established in 1928 and with 34 branches across the South of England, they can provide the highest quality help and advice to care for your eyes for this summer and every one after.

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