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Eye Care in the Summer Months

Summer weather is here. The heat and temperatures this year are well above average for many areas. Summer also means enjoying more time outside as the colder snowy conditions have subsided. You lather your sunscreen to protect your skin from those pesky UV rays, but have you also considered summer eye problems to keep an eye on?

Several eye conditions occur with greater frequency and sometimes more severity due to sun exposure. Let’s review common concerns related to summer eye health, summer eye dangers to avoid, and tips for taking care of your eyes while enjoying the summer sun.

Examples of Summer Eye Concerns to Watch For

During the summer, we may expose ourselves to various factors, such as harsh sunlight, UV exposure, warm and dry weather, hot outdoor winds, indoor air conditioning, technology devices for prolonged periods, chlorine exposure from the swimming pool, pollutants in the air and water bodies in which we swim, and dust particles in the air. As a result, summer eye problems can flare up or develop during the summer. For example, such eye concerns include dry eye disease, eye allergies, conjunctivitis, styes, and sunburn.

Can summer cause dry eyes?

Hot, dry weather causes tears to evaporate faster, leading to excessive dryness in your eyes. Your dry eye signs and symptoms may exacerbate during the summer if you experience chronic dry eye conditions or are prone to dry eyes throughout the year for other reasons.

While the sun may not worsen dry eyes, dehydration that can accompany excessive sun exposure may. Water is vital for adequate tear production. When the hot sun and high temperatures lead to dehydration, your ability to produce tears is greatly affected. Studies suggest dehydration may be closely linked to developing and worsening dry eye signs and symptoms.

Can the sun cause conjunctivitis?

When you hear the term conjunctivitis, is the eye infection pink eye the first thought that comes to your mind?

Conjunctivitis is the inflammation or infection of the ordinarily transparent membrane that lines your eyelid and covers the whites of your eye. When the tiny blood vessels in the conjunctiva become inflamed, they become more visible, leading to the pink or red-coloured appearance often associated with the pink eye infection.

There are several types of conjunctivitis. Some occur as a result of exposure to the sun’s UV rays. Photoconjunctivitis, for example, occurs when UV light penetrates the eyes, causing the conjunctiva to become inflamed. Signs and symptoms of photoconjunctivitis arise quickly and can be pretty painful.

Conjunctivitis is very common during the summer months for a few reasons, including how easily bacteria spread in the warm summer weather, greater exposure to extreme heat, and more frequent exposure to UV rays

Can the sun cause styes?

A stye is an infection or inflammation in a tear gland or eyelash follicle. Styes resemble small pimples, generally lasting about three days before popping and healing. Styes are usually caused by a bacterial infection of the glands on the eyelid. While not necessarily caused by the sun, a stye can become more prominent during summer as bacteria are more readily transferred from person to person through shared objects. The best way to prevent a stye, no matter what season it may be, is to wash your hands before touching your eyes, replace contact lens equipment frequently, and change your eye makeup at least every six months.

Can you sunburn your eyes?

Like your skin and scalp, your eyes can become sunburned from too much exposure to harmful UV rays. The term for a sunburned eye is photokeratitis. Signs and symptoms include inflammation of the cornea, burning, and eye pain.

Photokeratitis is a painful, temporary condition caused by ultraviolet exposure. Direct sunlight is a cause of photokeratitis. You can also sunburn your eyes when the sun reflects off the snow, water, cars, or sand. Or when you use a tanning bed or a welding torch without proper eye protection. Too much sun exposure can lead to specific eye conditions, including cataracts, eyelid cancer, and age-related macular degeneration.

Why do my eyes burn in the summer?

There could be several reasons why eyes burn or feel uncomfortable during the summer. A burning sensation could be a side effect of a stye, conjunctivitis infection, or a sunburned eye (photokeratitis). Eye burning may also result from dry eye disease or eye allergies. High levels of heat, irritants, and pollutants in the air can lead to allergic reactions, which include itching and burning eyes.

Why do my eyes water more in the summer?

Our eyes may water more during the summer due to eye allergies, conjunctivitis, or dry eyes. Exposure to UV rays can irritate the conjunctiva leading to redness and watering. Also, if you are dehydrated, your lacrimal gland (the glands that produce tears) may attempt to overcompensate for eye dryness leading to excess tear production.

Can the sun make your eyes sore?

Many summer eye health concerns can lead to sore eyes in the summer. Dry eyes, eye allergies, conjunctivitis, and sunburned eyes will all lead to a certain amount of eye soreness. If you experience incredibly sore eyes after sun exposure, it is necessary to seek advice from your eye doctor immediately. While many summer eye conditions will resolve in a few days without significant clinical intervention, UV exposure can lead to eye conditions that require treatment by your eye doctor. 

Do eyelids protect my eyes from the sun?

Your eyelids are intended to shield your eyes from UV light. They act as your eyes’ first line of defense against the sun’s harmful rays. Despite the protection eyelids offer, it is crucial to remember that there is only so much this very thin layer can do when faced with UVA and UVB rays. In time, small amounts of UV light that filter through can cause sun damage to your eyes through your eyelid.

How can I take care of my eyes in the summer?

As the days become hotter, it is crucial to remember to take care of your eyes like you would take care of your skin. When spending time at the beach or outside in the sun, people often remember to apply sunscreen, wear a hat, and cover their bodies in protective clothing. However, their eyes remain exposed to harmful UV rays, dirt, pollution, heat, and other factors. As a result, they may experience painful eye conditions and hot, blurry eyes.
Fortunately, there are several ways you can protect and keep your eyes cool this summer.
  1. Remember that sunglasses are not optional. When you head out for the day, don’t forget to grab a pair of sunglasses that protect your eyes from the UV rays. Also, it may help to keep a pair of sunglasses in your car or bag to ensure you have a spare in case you forget.
  2. To keep your eyes cool, wash them frequently with cool water. You can also use an ice pack over your eyes to relax them. Especially if you’re working in the sun or spending a lot of time looking at a technology screen. The cold water helps remove heat from the eyes and reduces discomfort and burning.
  3. Staying hydrated is another vital way to care for your eyes during the summer. Dehydration significantly impacts your eye’s ability to produce lubricating tears. In the heat, your eyes quickly lose moisture. Suppose you are not drinking plenty of water. In that case, your eyes cannot adequately maintain tear production to keep your eyes properly lubricated. This leads to dry eyes and burning. Keep yourself hydrated by drinking lots of water; however, if this does not help and your eyes still feel dry, consider contacting your nearby eye doctor about lubricating eye drops.

Conclusion

Remember to visit your ophthalmologist (eye and vision care doctor) at least once each year to examine your eye health and address any eye or vision concerns. An annual eye and visual assessment can help diagnose any chronic or concerning eye conditions early. As a result, you prevent worsening signs, symptoms, and conditions. Diagnosing and treating early allows more effective and less expensive treatment to become possible. To find an eye care center near you, visit Medimap to learn more about eye care providers in your area.

To find an eye care center near you, visit Medimap to learn more about eye care providers in your area.

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