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Valley optometrists warn about sunburned eyes

(Pexels)

PHOENIX — July is UV safety month and while sunscreen is a great way to protect your body, how do you protect your eyes from the sun?

Valley optometrist Dr. Jason Klepfisz with Urban Eye Care in downtown Phoenix said UV rays can actually cause your eyes to get sunburned.

“Your eyes get sunburned just like every other part of the body,” Klepfisz said. “We tend to see the cornea, the front of the eye, but also the lids themselves being burnt.”

He said this can create some serious damage to your eye health.

“A lot of ramifications, unfortunately, the worst being skin cancer,” Klepfisz said. “UV has been associated with cataract progression, photokeratitis, which is just a fancy name for sunburned eyes, but also even solar retinopathy. If you spend too much time looking at the sun you can actually cause damage to the back of the eyes.”

Klepfisz said sunburned eyes are most common in skiers and snowboarders after long exposure to UV rays and light reflecting off the snow.

He said those with lighter colored eyes are also more susceptible to eye damage.

“When it comes to trouble in the back of the eye, those things definitely have a high incident in lighter colored eyes,” he said. “Lighter colored eyes have less pigmentation to stop the UV from getting to the back of the eye.”

Klepfisz said there are plenty of ways to protect your eyes year-round. He suggested wide-brimmed hats and sunglasses.

“I’m all for ‘the bigger the better’ when it comes to sunglasses,” he said. “You want a large frame that protects not only the eyes, and the sun coming directly into the eyes, but all that area around the eyes.”

However, if you do notice some redness or irritation after sun exposure, Klepfisz always recommends heading to an optometrist.

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