September Newsletter: How Your Environment Affects Your Eyewear Choice

Women wearing sunglasses on the beach.

How Your Environment Affects Your Eyewear Choice

Imagine wearing a rain coat every day of the year, no matter what the weather conditions are. Although you'd be appropriately dressed for rainy days, your coat wouldn't do much to protect you from the bitter cold during the winter and would be much too hot on a balmy summer day. The same principal applies to your eyewear. Matching your eyewear with your environment could help you avoid irritation or injuries.

Spending Time Outdoors on a Sunny Day?

Sun protection is essential 365 days of the year. Although the sun's rays aren't as intense during the winter or on cloudy days, ultraviolet (UV) light can still damage your eyes. Long-term exposure to UV light may increase your risk for cataract development, macular degeneration, and skin cancer. Sunglasses keep your eyes moister on hot days and protect your eyes from sand and other airborne debris on windy days.

Polarized sunglasses reduce glare and improve contrast. They're a good choice for anyone but can be particularly helpful if you spend a lot of time in the snow or sand. Both surfaces reflect light, intensifying the effects of the sun. Wearing sunglasses can also help you avoid photokeratitis, sunburn that affects the eyes.

Do you wear contact lenses? Some lens manufacturers offer styles that offer protection against UV light. Because the lenses don't completely cover the eyes, you'll still need to wear sunglasses for maximum protection.

If you normally wear prescription eyeglasses outdoors, talk to your optometrist about prescription sunglasses or goggles. They're available in many styles and protect your eyes from the sun while offering clear, crisp vision.

Do You Work Around Dust and Debris?

Prescription or non-prescription safety goggles or glasses are a must if you spend any time around dust, debris, or chemicals. Eye protection is equally important if you're at work, mowing your lawn, or sanding an old door. If there's any possibility that a task that could produce airborne debris, put on your safety specs.

Staying Safe from Pollution and Smoke

Air pollution triggers air quality alerts throughout the year in every state in the US. Pollution and smoke travel on wind currents and even affect those who don't live in a major city or near a manufacturing plant. In addition to drying and irritating your eyes, pollution could increase your risk of age-related macular degeneration (AMD), according to a study published in the British Journal of Ophthalmology. AMD affects your central vision and can cause blind spots or blurry vision.

Keep an eye on the air quality index for your area, available on weather websites, and plan accordingly. If the index is high, stay indoors if you can. If not, wear sunglasses or goggles when you're out and use lubricating eyedrops to moisten your eyes.

Every summer, one or more areas of the US are affected by wildfire smoke. Smoke causes breathing difficulties and irritates your eyes. After spending time outdoors, your eyes may burn and itch and look red. If you must go outside when the air is smoky, put on a pair of goggles or wraparound sunglasses.

Leave your contact lenses in their case on smoky days. Sooty debris can become trapped under your lenses, irritating your eyes.

In the Water

Goggles (either prescription or non-prescription) are a good choice if you plan to spend the day at the beach or pool. The eyewear stops bacteria from entering your eyes and prevents eye irritation from salt and chlorine.

Do you wear your contact lenses at the beach? That's not a good idea, according to the American Optometric Association. Germs in the water can stick to your contacts, causing a serious eye infection. In fact, it's not a good idea to expose your contacts to water at all, whether it's in the shower, hot tub, ocean, lake, stream, or pool.

On a Plane

Low humidity in airplanes may make your skin and eyes feel dry. Bring artificial tears or lubricating eye drops in your carry on bag and use them often during your flight. Tempted to wear your contact lenses when you fly? Unfortunately, contact lenses dry out quickly when you're in the air. Wear your glasses or bring rewetting solution to use throughout the flight.

Is it time to update your eyeglass or contact lens prescriptions or upgrade your eyewear? Contact our office to make your appointment with the eye doctor.


American Optometric Association: Environments

All About Vision: Wildfire Smoke and Your Eyes, 11/5/2019

British Journal of Ophthalmology: Association of Ambient Air Pollution with Age-Related Macular Degeneration and Retinal Thickness in the UK, 5/2022

National Eye Institute: Protecting Your Eye from the Sun’s UV Light?, 7/5/2022


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