Wellness Wednesday: UV Safety and Eyesight

Mom probably told you a lot of things growing up that may have seemed silly. “Keep making that face and it’ll freeze that way!” and “Don’t look at me with those eyes!” And, of course, coming back with a retort, like “These are the only eyes I have,” was never in your best interest.

Female EyesBut the truth is … they really are the only eyes you have. And if you ever heard her tell you “Don’t stare into the sun, you’ll hurt your eyes,” you can thank her for that one because she was absolutely right.

We already know ultraviolet (UV) rays can damage our skin, cause wrinkles and skin cancer (melanoma). But did you know it can also damage your eyes?

Ultraviolet Radiation

There are two types of UV rays in sunlight:

UVA rays cause aging in skin cells and can damage the DNA. They can cause long-term skin damage and are responsible for wrinkles. They have also been linked to skin cancer.

UVB rays have more energy than UVA rays. They directly damage the DNA of skin cells and are the main cause of sunburn. They are the rays most responsible for skin cancer.

Both long- and short-term exposure to UV radiation can harm the eyes, affect vision, and compromise eye health. There are also several eye diseases and conditions caused or aggravated by exposure to UV radiation:

Macular Degeneration

EyeSmartMacular Degeneration (AMD) is caused by damage to the retina over time and is the leading cause of age-related blindness. Extended exposure to UV light increases your risk of developing macular degeneration.

Cataracts

A cataract is a clouding of the eye’s natural lens—the part of the eye that focuses the light we see. UV light, especially UV-B rays, increases your risk for certain types of cataracts. It is estimated that 10% of all cataract cases are directly attributable to UV exposure.

Pterygium (surfer’s eye)

Often called “surfer’s eye,” pterygium is a pink, non-cancerous growth that forms on the layer of conjunctiva over the white of your eye. UV light from the sun is believed to be a factor in the development of these growths.

Skin Cancer

The skin of the eyelids is very thin. So even if your eyes are closed, you can do damage to your eyes by exposing the lids to the sunlight. Skin cancer in and around the eyelids is also linked to prolonged UV exposure.

Photokeratitis (snow blindness)

Also known as corneal sunburn or “snow blindness,” photokeratitis is the result of high short-term exposure to UV-B rays. Long hours at the beach or skiing without proper eye protection can cause this problem. It can be very painful and may cause temporary vision loss.

Whenever you spend time outdoors, you should wear quality sunglasses that offer UV protection and a hat or cap with a wide brim. To provide adequate protection for your eyes, sunglasses should:

  • Block out 99 to 100 percent of both UV-A and UV-B radiation
  • Screen out 75 to 90 percent of visible light
  • Be perfectly matched in color and free of distortion and imperfection
  • Have lenses that are gray for proper color recognition

Senior woman on beach holding hatIf you spend a lot of time outdoors in bright sunlight, consider wearing wraparound frames for additional protection from the harmful solar radiation.

And never, ever look directly at the sun. Looking directly at the sun at any time, including during an eclipse, can lead to solar retinopathy, which is damage to the eye’s retina from solar radiation.

So, go thank your mom and tell her she was right!

Sources:

American Academy of Opthalmology, American Optometric Association and the Skin Cancer Foundation.


More Information:

People With Increased Risk of Eye Damage from UV Light

Winter UV Eye Safety

How to Choose the Best Sunglasses

How Sunlight Damages the Eyes

WHO: The known health effects of UV

Wellness Wednesday: The Dangers of UV Exposure

May is Melanoma/Skin Cancer Detection and Prevention Month, so Mercy Health System encourages you to be safe in the sun.

blazinghotsunExposure to UV radiation increases the risk of developing skin cancer, according to the National Cancer Institute (NCI). Melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer, is linked to getting severe sunburns, especially at a young age.

Every year, there are 63,000 new cases of and 9,000 deaths from melanoma—the deadliest form of skin cancer.

Ultraviolet (UV) exposure is the most common cause of skin cancer. A new CDC study shows that the majority of Americans are not using sunscreen regularly to protect themselves from the sun’s harmful UV rays.

In fact, fewer than 15% of men and fewer than 30% of women reported using sunscreen regularly on their face and other exposed skin when outside for more than 1 hour. Many women report that they regularly use sunscreen on their faces but not on other exposed skin.


Skin cancer is the most common cancer in the United States. Yet most skin cancers can be prevented.


What are your family’s risks from exposure to powerful UV rays? Consider these facts and statistics.

The Dangers of UV Exposure

  • You can sunburn even on a cloudy day.
  • On average, children get 3 times more exposure than adults.
  • Concrete, sand, water and snow reflect 85% to 90% of the sun’s UV rays.
  • Depletion of Earth’s ozone continues to increase your exposure to UV rays.

Skin Cancer

  • In some parts of the world, melanoma is increasing at rates faster than any other cancer.
  • More than 1.2 million new cases of skin cancer are diagnosed each year in the US.
  • Melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer, kills one person every hour.
  • One blistering sunburn can double a child’s lifetime risk of developing skin cancer.

Visit the American Cancer Society website and take their sun safety quiz to see how much you know about staying safe in the sun.

Source: www.sunsafetyalliance.org


More Information:

Protect Your Family from Skin Cancer

Suncreen: The Burning Facts

FDA Sheds Light on Sunscreens

NIOSH Fast Facts: Protecting Yourself from Sun Exposure

Wellness Wednesday: Indoor Tanning is Not Safer than Sunbathing

ucm399147Exposure to UV radiation—whether from the sun or from artificial sources such as sunlamps used in tanning beds—increases the risk of developing skin cancer, according to the National Cancer Institute (NCI). Melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer, is linked to getting severe sunburns, especially at a young age.


“Although some people think that a tan gives them a ‘healthy’ glow, any tan is a sign of skin damage,” says Sharon Miller, M.S.E.E., a Food and Drug Administration (FDA) scientist and international expert on UV radiation and tanning.


“A tan is the skin’s reaction to exposure to UV rays,” says Miller. “Recognizing exposure to the rays as an ‘insult,’ the skin acts in self-defense by producing more melanin, a pigment that darkens the skin. Over time, this damage will lead to prematurely aged skin and, in some cases, skin cancer.”

Indoor tanning is not a safe option

basetan_623_806Both UV-B and UV-A rays damage the skin and can lead to skin cancer. Tanning salons use lamps that emit both UV-A and UV-B radiation.

In July 2009, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), part of the World Health Organization, concluded that tanning devices that emit UV radiation are more dangerous than previously thought. IARC moved these devices into the highest cancer risk category: “carcinogenic to humans.” Previously, it had categorized the devices as “probably carcinogenic to humans.”

IARC concluded that there is convincing evidence of an association between the use of indoor tanning equipment and melanoma risk, and that the use of tanning beds should be discouraged.

“It’s well established that UV radiation from the sun causes skin cancer,” says Miller. “Since lamps used in tanning beds emit UV radiation, the use of indoor tanning devices also increases your risk of skin cancer.”

Other Risks

In addition to the serious risk of skin cancer, tanning can cause:

  • Premature aging. Tanning causes the skin to lose elasticity and wrinkle prematurely. This leathery look may not show up until many years after you’ve had a tan or sunburn.
  • Immune suppression. UV-B radiation may suppress proper functioning of the body’s immune system and the skin’s natural defenses, leaving you more vulnerable to diseases, including skin cancer.
  • Eye damage. Exposure to UV radiation can cause irreversible damage to the eyes.
  • Allergic reaction. Some people who are especially sensitive to UV radiation may develop an itchy red rash and other adverse effects.

Advocates of tanning devices sometimes argue that using these devices are less dangerous than sun tanning because the intensity of UV radiation and the time spent tanning can be controlled. But there is no evidence to support these claims. In fact, sunlamps may be more dangerous than the sun because they can be used at the same high intensity every day of the year—unlike the sun whose intensity varies with the time of day, the season, and cloud cover.

Tanning in Children and Teens

image-20150608-8697-1m0f3g2The FDA believes that limiting sun exposure and using sunscreen or sunblock are particularly important for children since these measures can prevent sunburn at a young age.

NCI reports that women who use tanning beds more than once a month are 55 percent more likely to develop melanoma. Teenage girls and young women make up a growing number of tanning bed customers.

“Young people may not think they are vulnerable to skin cancer,” says Ron Kaczmarek, M.D., M.P.H., FDA epidemiologist. “They have difficulty thinking about their own mortality.”

Yet of the more than 68,000 people in the U.S. who will learn they have melanoma this year, one out of eight will die from it, according to NCI estimates. In addition, the American Academy of Dermatology reports that melanoma is the second most common cancer in women 20 to 29 years old.


Some states are considering laws to ban those under age 18 from using tanning beds. And many states now have laws that require minors to have a parent’s consent or be accompanied by a parent to the tanning facility.


“Parents should carefully consider the risks before allowing their children under 18 to tan,” says Miller.

The Riskiest Practices

The FDA, NCI, the American Academy of Dermatology, and other health organizations advise limiting exposure to natural UV radiation from the sun and avoiding artificial UV sources such as tanning beds entirely.

All use of tanning beds increases the risk of skin cancer. Certain practices are especially dangerous. These include:

  • Failing to wear the goggles provided, which can lead to short- and long-term eye injury.
  • Starting with long exposures (close to the maximum time for the particular tanning bed), which can lead to burning. Because sunburn takes 6 to 48 hours to develop, you may not realize your skin is burned until it’s too late.
  • Failing to follow manufacturer-recommended exposure times on the label for your skin type.
  • Tanning while using certain medications or cosmetics that may make you more sensitive to UV rays. Talk to your doctor or pharmacist first.

Source: http://www.fda.gov/ForConsumers/ConsumerUpdates

http://www.fda.gov/downloads/ForConsumers/ConsumerUpdates/UCM190664.pdf