5 Surprising Summer Eye Health Risks And What You Can Do About It

two kids in a poolPeople tend to spend more time outdoors during the summer and why not? The warmer weather is ideal for family picnics, concerts, festivals, pool time and sporting events.Summer is also the time of year when eye doctors, such as Key-Whitman Eye
Center’s Dallas optometrist Amanda Hoelscher, see more patients seeking treatment for eye redness, pain and irritation.

Dr. Hoelscher explains why people are at increased risk for eye problems in the summer and when people should visit the eye doctor.

Are You Taking Unnecessary Risks With Your Family’s Eyes?

Dr. Hoelscher breaks down the top five culprits that endanger eye health during summer months and what you can do to avoid them.

No. 1: The Sun

You’ve probably heard how UV rays damage skin, and you likely use sunscreen or apply it to your children’s skin to prevent skin cancer. But how diligent are you about
protecting your eyes from UV rays? If you have kids, do you make sure they put on sunglasses before heading outside?

Sun damage to the eyes can lead to serious complications, including permanent vision loss. As Dr. Hoelscher explains, “UV exposure can cause damage to the front and back of the eyes and cause permanent retinal issues, eyelid cancers and surface issues like pterygiums – or surfer’s eye – where a growth of fleshy tissue appears on the clear covering over the white part of the eye.”

Consequently, Dr. Hoelscher firmly believes wearing sunglasses with UV protection should be mandatory for all ages during outdoor activities, because the risks are real, prevalent and start at an early age.

According to a study published in the American Journal of Ophthalmology
on UV-related eye disease and damage in children, researchers found sun damage in the eyes of 29 percent of children ages 9 to 11 and 81 percent of teens ages 12 to 15.

“Consumers have been well educated on the importance of wearing sunscreen, but they’re not so savvy when it comes to wearing sunglasses. In fact, one of the vision care insurance providers Key-Whitman accepts, VSP, conducted a survey that revealed while 82 percent of parents make their kids wear sunscreen, only 32 percent
require their kids to wear sunglasses. The high rate of early sun damage in children’s eyes should make parents pause,” Dr. Hoeslcher says.

Dr. Hoelscher offers sunglass buying tips and explains why high quality sunglasses like Maui Jim’s offer the optimum UV protection.

No. 2: Pools, Water Parks, Lakes And Rivers

Multiple threats linger at these fun-filled spots where water and other people are everywhere. Chlorine, bacteria and poor hygiene can turn a great day into a trip to the eye doctor’s office, thanks to red, itchy, infected eyes.

As Dr. Hoelscher explains, “During summer, bodies of water can teem with bacterial and viral eye infections, which can infect the eyes. Long-exposure to chlorine can also lead to eye irritation, so be sure to limit exposure to chlorine and use artificial tears to flush eyes and combat chlorine toxicity.”

Another common problem at public swimming pools and water parks? Sharing towels. “Many people share towels at swimming pools, which isn’t a good idea. If someone with an eye infection rubs their face with a towel, that infection can easily be passed on to someone else who uses the same towel. Don’t share towels,” says Dr. Hoelscher.

No. 3: Amped Up Screen Time

During summer vacations, people tend to spend more time on personal devices, such as tablets and smartphones. Just think about those long car trips to grandma’s house or travel by air to a faraway destination.

Excessive screen time can lead to eye discomfort for some. Taking frequent screen breaks and keeping artificial tears nearby for eye strain relief can work wonders.

According to Dr. Hoelscher, “Increased exposure to digital screens can lead to what we refer to in our industry as digital eye strain. The eyes receive more exposure to blue light, which can be fatiguing. In addition, many people experience a decreased blink rate, which can increase dry eye symptoms and surface irritation. Your eye doctor can provide insight on treatments available for dry eye problems.”

No. 4: The Wind

While the wind may seem harmless, extended periods in a windy environment can wreak havoc on the eyes.

“Wind dries out the surface of the eyes, which can lead to redness and pain. Some people even end up with eye infections due to wind exposure. Consider wearing wraparound sunglasses to protect eyes and use eye drops to flush out irritants,” Dr. Hoelscher says.

No. 5: Allergens And Air Pollution

During spring and summer months, increases in pollen and other allergens, as well as exposure to air pollution, can lead to red, itchy, irritated eyes. Seeking refuge in air-conditioned spaces can help ease symptoms, but that isn’t always an option, especially for those enjoying outdoor activities.

According to Dr. Hoelscher, antihistamines may help ease some symptoms but exacerbate others. As she explains, “Taking oral antihistamines can increase eye dryness. Over-the-counter or prescription eye drops for dry, irritated eyes provide relief for some patients. Talk to your primary care physician about antihistamine options and contact your eye doctor if eye irritation persists.”

Take A Three-Step Approach To Summer Eye Health

Before heading outdoors for summer fun, Dr. Hoelscher recommends the following three steps to protect eyes and avoid serious eye health issues.

Step 1:

Don’t leave home without UV eye protection for yourself and your kids.

Step 2:

Keep artificial tears nearby to flush out irritants and relieve dryness and discomfort.

Step 3:

Schedule an appointment with an eye care professional at the first sign of eye redness, irritation, discharge or pain. “We see problems you don’t and can determine if you have a serious eye condition that needs treatment,” Dr. Hoelscher says.

If you experience eye pain, redness or discomfort this summer, you can schedule an eye exam at Dr. Hoelscher’s North Dallas office or at the Key-Whitman Eye Center locations in Dallas, Arlington, Plano or Mesquite, by calling (214) 225-2577 or by setting up an appointment online.

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