Protect your eyes from the sun just like we do with your skin. It is a habit that we have not yet adopted but which is of fundamental importance for visual health as well as for the epidermal area which, being thinner, is affected before time passes.
The World Health Organization has dedicated this year’s edition of the International Health Day to respecting the environment. With the title ‘Our planet, our health‘, WHO invites us to reflect on the link between pollution, climate crisis and global warming, extreme events and the well-being of human communities.
Since now, with the lengthening of the days, we are more exposed to light and sun, on the occasion of the World Health Day, the Salmoiraghi & Viganò Foundation promoted a meeting as part of the “Meet the Ophthalmologist” program, a scientific information campaign and prevention which aims to spread the culture of eye health among citizens.
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The three rules of eye protection
Sunlight is a fundamental element for our physical and psychological well-being: within certain limits it stimulates or allows the human body to produce biochemical elements of great importance such as, for example, vitamin D and serotonin. Yet, without adequate prevention and protection, it can become harmful to the eyes and skin mainly due to ultraviolet or UV rays. These, in fact, are electromagnetic radiations which, although representing less than 10% of the radiations emitted by the sun and not visible to the human eye, can have very negative effects on the latter and on the skin.
EYES The ophthalmologist answers your questions
“To protect eye health from excessive exposure to sunlight as we do with the use of sunscreen for our skin – warns Luigi Mele, ophthalmologist at the Luigi Vanvitelli University Hospital of Campania and president of the Scientific Committee of the Foundation – it is advisable to follow three rules of prevention: pay particular attention to reflective surfaces such as snow, water and sand, and to increasing altitude; wear sunglasses equipped with certified filters that certify the level of filtration of the light radiation and, finally, avoid exposure to sunlight especially in summer and in the central hours of the day “.
Sun damage to eyesight
It is difficult to believe that the sun, so pleasant especially in these months preceding the summer, can also damage the eyes. “Today we know with certainty – clarifies Mele – that excessive exposure to UV rays can cause damage to the front surface of the eye, just like sunburn on the skin. Without the necessary preventive measures, the damage can go from keratitis, a sensation of very painful but usually temporary burning in the cornea, typical of when sunglasses are not worn in places with a lot of reflected light such as the beach, to cataracts up to the formation of a mass, called pterygium, which can develop in the corner of the ‘eye, possibly obstructing the cornea and thus the vision “.
Children, athletes and the elderly are most at risk
Some categories of people need to be especially careful. “Since about 80% of the whole life exposure to Uva and Uvb rays occurs before the age of 18 – emphasizes Mele – it is the youngest who are particularly exposed, spending most of their time outdoors. Children they also have a much more transparent lens than an adult, and for this reason a child’s eye tends to absorb greater quantities of ultraviolet, with an increased risk of ocular pathologies in the long term “.
Sportsmen and, more generally, all individuals engaged in outdoor activities, who therefore expose their eyes to sunlight for many hours, are also more at risk. “The elderly should not be forgotten, given that aging involves the loss of most of the repair processes of ocular tissues, including those damaged by decades of exposure to the sun”, adds the ophthalmologist.
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The most effective protection system of our eyes against solar radiation occurs through the use of sunglasses with sun lenses. In addition to reducing glare, sunglasses must, above all, absorb all the ultraviolet radiation and protect from other harmful radiations without affecting color vision. Only the lenses with the CE mark are also characterized by a capacity to absorb solar radiation, which varies according to the light intensity of the environment in which you are located. This is a very important element since the brighter the area, the higher the absorption capacity must be.
In the mountains, for example, the absorption capacity of the lenses must be quite high, around 90%, while at the sea the absorption must be at least around 75%.
Because the skin around the eyes ages faster
But protecting the eyes from the sun is also useful for slowing the appearance of wrinkles and sagging skin that make the face more tired. Therefore, even if when the sun comes we can’t wait to enjoy it, we should pay particular attention to the eye contour: “The mobile eyelid and the eye area in general – he explains Annalisa Pizzettispecialist in dermatology and aesthetic medicine, member of the Italian Society of Dermatology (Sidemast) are the most delicate of all and those most prone to premature aging not only because the skin is thinner there but also because it does not contain sebaceous glands and is a part subject to the mimicry of the orbicular muscles “.
And the sun only makes the eye area even more delicate. “Solar radiation creates damage both at a superficial level through sunburn, and at a deep level through damage to the DNA of free radicals”, adds Pizzetti. “Unlike other areas of the body that develop a sort of autologous protection with sun exposure – replies Pizzetti – the eyelid does not get tanned but could get burned and especially if it happens at a young age it predisposes to an eye contour that ages prematurely”.
How to protect the eye area
In short, sunglasses are useful not only for protecting eyesight but also for not getting old prematurely. But on a cosmetic level, how can we protect the eye area? “Specific sunscreens should be used because if we put on the classic sunscreen it will tend to melt with the heat causing burning eyes. Better to choose specific products for the eye contour with protection factor 50 and in sticks because they have a more compact consistency”, he replies the dermatologist who adds another piece of advice: “In the summer for the eye area it is better to avoid anti-wrinkle creams with a very large Inci because they may contain highly photosensitizing substances such as retinol, vitamin C and essential oils that can be used safely in winter but which in the sun they could cause burns “.
What types of moisturizers to choose
But the eye contour should also be nourished in summer: “Better to opt for anti-wrinkle moisturizers based on hyaluronic acid that does not create any solar intolerance. Creams that act at the level of the skin microbiome with substances such as acmella, a biomimetic polypeptide are also indicated. , panthenol and bisabolol, active ingredients that are both moisturizing and soothing “, explains Pizzetti.