It’s officially summer and that means spending time outdoors, getting some rays at local parks and beaches.
But with Environment Canada predicting a warmer than normal summer, the Doctors of Optometry in B.C. are reminding Victoria residents to wear sunglasses and apply sunscreen while outside to help protect eyes and reduce the risk of cataracts that can be caused by the sun’s UV rays.
“The big conditions that we find that are caused and exacerbated by a lifetime of UV exposure are cataracts and macular degeneration,” said Dr. Gurpreet Leekha, an optometrist Royal Oak Optometry in Victoria and the president of the B.C. Doctors of Optometry.
“In Victoria in particular, you have a lot of aging eyes and amongst the aging eyes you’re seeing a high incident of cataracts. With cataracts, there’s multiple factors that can make it worse, but the primary ones are genetics and UV exposure.”
The best way to protect your eyes against UV rays is to plan ahead based on what type of activities you’ll be involved in.
“If you’re just going to be in a park, you want to protect against overhead UV rays with a hat, a pair of sunglasses and some sunscreen of course,” he said. “If you’re going to be around water, you have to anticipate that there’s going to be reflected rays and that UV reflection can be quite damaging as well. In that case, the sun wear that you wear should be more wrap around.”
He noted that even on overcast days, there are still high intensity rays that come through.
For young people, it’s particularly important to keep the shades on.
“There’s some research in the States and the World Health Organization has adapted this as well, that says that probably 50 per cent of your entire damaging lifetime exposure to UV comes before you even turn 18 years of age,” said Leekha, adding that it’s important to try and avoid the sun between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m., when UV rays are at their highest intensity.
UV Canada has also created an app that shows the daily UV indexes so you can plan accordingly before heading out the door. Check them out at uvaware.com.