Summer Eye Safety: Preventing Dry Eye

Jennifer Wagh, O.D.

People often associate the onset of dry eyes with the cold, winter months. The air is bitter, dry, blustery – and, yes, it certainly impacts the eyes. But what many people overlook is how summer can also negatively impact eye moisture, especially in areas of the country that experience hot climates during summer.

 

How does summer weather impact eye health – specifically dry eyes?

As the weather warms and the sun comes out after our long winter, we want to be outside. We typically spend more time outside during the summer months, which means we have more direct exposure to sunlight.

While enjoying a day in the sun is great, it should be done in moderation with safety precautions in place. UV (ultraviolet) rays from the sun not only have the power to burn our skin, but also our eyes (eye “sunburn” is also known as photokeratitis).

If not using proper eye protection in sunlight, dry eyes can develop as the protective tear film on the eye typically evaporates more quickly.

In addition to the dangers of UV exposure, we also enjoy many other summer activities that can make our eyes dry:

  • Chlorine from pools
  • Salt from the ocean/ocean air
  • Exposure to outdoor allergens
  • Spending extended time in air conditioning or going in and out of air-conditioned spaces frequently
  • Sleeping with a fan on in the bedroom at night

 

How can I protect my eyes from becoming too dry this summer?

Sunglasses! But not just any sunglasses.

Protecting your eyes from UV exposure is important for maintaining moisture contained in our eyes…but also for your overall eye health.

When selecting sunglasses, consider this:

  • Think of sunglasses as sunscreen for your eyes. Check the UV protection rating – those that offer “100% UV” or “UV400” protection are best. Oftentimes the label will read “UV absorption up to 400 nm” or “100% UV400 protection.”
  • Wrap-around style glasses also offer additional protection as it impedes sunlight from entering peripherally, too.
  • Alternatively, a wide-brim hat can also offer additional eye protection – but it is recommended that a hat is used in addition to sunglasses, not in place of.
  • Pick a comfortable, fashionable pair that you enjoy wearing! And don’t leave home without them – even on cloudy days.
  • Don’t forget about the kids! Everyone, every age is at heightened risk for dry eyes when exposed to risk factors like UV rays. Start UV safety habits young and encourage children to wear sunglasses and hats outdoors, too.

Even with taking summer eye safety precautions, it is possible to develop dry eyes. Here are the symptoms of dry eye syndrome to watch for:

  • Burning sensation
  • Itchy eyes
  • Aching
  • Heavy eyes
  • Fatigued eyes
  • Sore eyes
  • Dryness/”grit in eye” sensation
  • Redness
  • Light sensitivity
  • Blurred vision

 

If you begin experiencing symptoms of dry eye, call your eye doctor for an evaluation and diagnosis – there are treatments available to help, including eye drops or even lifestyle modifications like reducing exposure to known irritants.

 

 

About Jennifer Wagh, O.D.

Dr. Wagh is a residency-trained medical optometrist who received her Doctor of Optometry degree from MCPHS University in Massachusetts. Dr. Wagh’s passion is diagnosing and managing dry eye disease. She has worked closely with cornea, glaucoma, and retinal specialists, attended weekly grand rounds at Johns Hopkin’s Medical School, and presented at the Annual American Academy of Optometry.