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Eyes get sunburned too: Doctor tips for being sun-wise with your eyes

The gentle breezes and bright sunshine of spring and summer entice people young and old to enjoy more time outdoors. Whether you’re spending the day at the beach or just relaxing on the patio with a good book, sunscreen is a necessity when you’re outside. While it’s always important to protect the skin, there’s another sun-sensitive organ that too often gets ignored: the eyes.

“Eye health is important all year long, but spring and summer months can be particularly harsh on eyes,” says Dr. Justin Bazan, Optometrist. “A few simple proactive steps today can have a dramatic effect on eye health for decades to come.”

Here are simple tips from Dr. Bazan that anyone can take to improve eye health and protect eyes from sun and other outdoor elements:

Throw on that hat
Head gear isn’t just fashionable during warm weather months; it’s also extremely functional when it comes to protecting eyes from the harsh sun. Wide-brimmed hats are best, especially if you’re planning to spend a lot of time outdoors, such as a day boating or afternoon gardening. The wider the brim, the more the hat will deflect sunshine overhead and from the sides.

“Keep in mind, the sun’s UV rays are typically the strongest between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m., so be sure to wear your favorite hat during peak hour. But, don’t forget about times when the sun is along the horizon between the times of 8 a.m. to 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. which is in our direct line of site. This gives our eyes tremendous UV exposure. Prime times for when people are outside exercising!” reminds Dr. Bazan.

Sunglasses are a must
Like SPF for the eyes, sunglasses are essential during sunny and warm weather months. When shopping, look for lenses with both 100 percent UVA/UVB protection, which will help to reduce the risk of burning your retina, cornea or the delicate skin around the eyes. Want even more UV protection? Look for products that offer an EPF (eye protection factor) certified rating. It’s the lens plus the frame that can make the difference. Solar Comfort sportwrap sunglasses and Solar Shield fits-over sunglasses for eyeglass wearers are now lab-tested for maximum UV protection and recently received the EPF CERTIFIED Seal, which provides more than 95 percent total frame and lens eye protection from the sun’s damaging rays. Visit www.solarshield.com or www.solarcomfort.com to learn more.

“Remember, cloudy days can be deceptive,” Dr. Bazan says. “Even when the sky is overcast, UV rays still pass through and can damage eyes, so always keep quality sunglasses handy.”

Moisture is key
Dry air, bright skies, wind, air-conditioning and the high levels of microscopic allergens associated with warm weather months can dry out your eyes quickly. If it feels like your eyes are dryer than usual, try blinking a few times and make a habit of doing so more frequently. If that doesn’t help, a few drops of an over-the-counter eye lubricant can help. Also, be aware of fans and air-conditioners blowing directly in your face, which can quickly dry out eyes.

“If chronic dry-eye conditions persist, it’s important to visit your eye care provider for an eye exam,” Dr. Bazan says.

Don’t forget about food
The fresh fare of the season is not only bursting with flavor, it’s also packed with nutrients good for the eyes. Next time you visit the grocery store or farmers market, keep an eye out for some vitamin-packed foods that provide key nutrients for eye health. Fill your plate with some of these flavorful foods:

* Vitamin C: oranges, strawberries, papaya and green peppers.
* Beta-carotene: yellow and deep orange produce like mangos, peaches, sweet potatoes and carrots.
* Zinc: beef, pork, lamb, eggs, milk and whole grains.
* Omega-3s: leafy green vegetables, nuts, fish and fish-oil supplements.

“A few simple steps can help anyone maintain eye health and ensure you not only enjoy time outdoors now, but can do so with healthy eyes for many years to come,” says Dr. Bazan.

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