It’s summertime, and that means fun afternoons by the pool, catching pop flies at the baseball park, and eating popsicles at the park. Unfortunately, it also means that with all that extra time outside, you may be exposed to significantly more UV rays from the sun. At some point, you’ve probably experienced a sunburn, but if you aren’t protecting your eyes this summer, you may also be at risk of developing certain eye diseases, particularly if you take certain medications or if your eyes are light in color.


    With excess UV exposure from the sun, your eyes are at greater risk for eye cancer, cataracts, temporary blindness (photokeratitis), and surfer’s eye, a type of growth called pterygium. Cataracts and eye cancers are associated with an accumulation of ultraviolet exposure over time, photokeratitis is linked to sudden, intense exposure, and pterygium is associated with extended exposure. Using certain medications or having lightly-colored eyes increases your sensitivity to UV radiation, which in turn, increases your risk for developing eye diseases.


    A number of medications, including over-the-counter medications that most of us have in our medicine cabinet, increase sensitivity of the eyes and skin to UV radiation. In fact, one-third of all adults in the United States take such medications regularly. While the risk of increased sensitivity to UV radiation varies with each medication, it is important to understand your risk by talking to your doctor about the combination of your medication, the reason for taking it, and the amount of time you spend in the sun.

    Medications that may increase your risk of susceptibility to UV-radiation damage include:

    • Certain antibiotics, including tetracycline or the class of antibiotics called floroquinolones such as Cipro
    • Some birth control pills and estrogen replacements
    • The anti-inflammatory medications Ibuprofen (Advil) and naproxen sodium (Aleve)


    If you have lightly-colored skin, you may have noticed that you are more likely to get a sunburn than your friends with darker skin tones. The same is true of your eyes. About half of Americans have blue or hazel eyes, and people with lighter eyes are also at greater risk for developing rare eye cancers, particularly of the iris and uvea.


    Even if you don’t take any of the medications above and have dark eyes, you should still take steps to protect your eye health because eye disease can occur in anyone. Thankfully, protecting yourself is fairly easy, although there is never a 100 percent guarantee that you won’t develop some form of eye disease over the course of your life. You first line of defense is to get a regular eye exam from your Silverstein Eye Centers eye doctor. Your eye doctor will monitor your eye health and provide guidance should you develop any signs of eye disease.

    In addition to regular eye examinations, be sure to always wear sunglasses when outside or driving. Look for sunglasses that block 100 percent of UV radiation with large lenses or wrap-around styles to block as much UV radiation as possible. UV-protective sunglasses should be labeled as “UV400” or “100 percent UV protection.” Interestingly, the darkness of the lens has nothing to do with UV protection, so don’t be fooled into thinking dark lenses are all you need. You should also wear your sunglasses on cloudy days when outside, as UV rays can penetrate through cloud cover. The only exception would be if wearing sunglasses on a cloudy day made it too dark to see clearly and thus posed a danger to your safety.

    Wearing a wide-brimmed hat and sunscreen will add further protection, and some studies have suggested that the simple addition of adding a hat reduces risk of UV-related eye disease significantly. Don’t forget to wear your sunglasses, hat, and sunscreen when at the beach or pool, as UV radiation can reflect back at you from the water, sand, or pavement.

    Be sure to also check with your doctor or pharmacist about the photosensitivity of any medications you are taking. If you are taking any that increase your sensitivity to sunlight, be extra vigilant in staying sun-safe for as long as you take those medications.

    To learn more about your risk of UV-related eye disease or to schedule a routine eye examination, call Silverstein Eye Centers today at (816) 358-3600 for our Independence/Kansas City office. We look forward to seeing you.

    Posted June 12, 2014 by Silverstein Eye Centers
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