Protecting your eyes from the summer sun: Newsroom

Richard Hession, MD

DALLAS – May 25, 2022 – With summer approaching and temperatures rising, it’s important to protect not only your skin but also your eyes from the sun’s rays.

Photokeratitis, also called ultraviolet keratitis, is a painful eye condition that can occur when the surface of your eye, called the cornea, is exposed to intense ultraviolet light, said Richard Hession, MD, assistant professor of op.hthalmology at UT Southwest. The damage occurs in the outermost layer of the cornea, causing it to flake and fall off, much like peeling skin after a sunburn. Because the nerve endings on the surface of the eye are very sensitive, patients may experience severe pain.

Although it is unlikely that you will develop the condition simply from spending a lot of time in the sun, it can be caused by reflections from water as well as UV rays from tanning beds. Those most at risk are workers such as welders due to the intense light emitted by their tools.

Wearing proper eye protection if your job requires it, or sunglasses when outdoors, will reduce your risk of developing this problem. In general, if you plan to spend a lot of time outdoors in the summer sun, you should wear sunscreen on exposed areas (SPF 30 or higher), a wide-brimmed hat, and sunglasses to protect your skin and eyes, Dr. Hession says.

Both children and adults should have eye exams

Vision screening in children is done primarily by pediatricians, starting at birth and continuing through childhood and adolescence. If a pediatrician discovers a potential problem, they will refer patients to an ophthalmologist for a comprehensive eye exam. Care will continue into adulthood as needed.

Most teens and adults who need glasses or contacts will receive a full dilated eye exam from their optometrist or ophthalmologist when they go to update their prescriptions. But even adults without vision problems should have a comprehensive eye exam starting at age 40, as recommended by the American Academy of Ophthalmology. According to Dr. Hession, several conditions can arise and progress without symptoms such as glaucoma. It is a disease that progressively damages the optic nerve, resulting in loss of peripheral vision and possibly total blindness. Untreated, patients can experience significant vision loss from glaucoma before they are diagnosed. Better catch it early and save a lot of vision.

About UT Southwestern Medical Center

UT Southwestern, one of the nation’s leading academic medical centers, integrates pioneering biomedical research with exceptional clinical care and education. The institution’s faculty has received six Nobel Prizes and includes 26 members of the National Academy of Sciences, 17 members of the National Academy of Medicine, and 14 researchers from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. The faculty of more than 2,900 people is responsible for groundbreaking medical advances and is committed to rapidly translating scientific research into new clinical treatments. UT Southwestern physicians provide care in more than 80 specialties to more than 100,000 inpatients, more than 360,000 emergency room cases, and oversee nearly 4 million outpatient visits annually.