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Time for Some Summer Shut-Eye

As we enter the holiday season, many Aussies will be getting ready to enjoy the great outdoors and soak up some ‘rays. Trouble is, our harsh sunshine can cause permanent eye damage.

Basking in the warmth of the sun can be a great pleasure but we need to remind ourselves that those rays are actually ultraviolet radiation. And just like our skin, our eyes are prone to sunburn, too.

The most common cause of vision loss in people over the age of 40 and the principal cause of blindness in the world is cataract. A key environmental trigger for this clouding of the eye lens is long-term exposure to sunlight without eye protection.

Australia’s medical eye doctors – ophthalmologists – warn that great care should be exercised in protecting our vision which almost all people rate as their most valued faculty.

Eye surgeon Prof Stephanie Watson advises her patients that “Sunglasses and a hat should really be mandatory for eye protection when in bright sunlight for any length of time.” These simple precautions can help prevent not only cataract but eye cancer and pterygium (pronounced ter-ig-ium).

Excessive sunlight can also cause the eyes to become red and sore. As overtime it can cause pterygium which often affects board-riders, it is also known as surfer’s eye. Nearly 9000 cases of this disease are treated in Australian annually. Cancers of the eyes surface and delicate eyelid skin can also occur with long-term sun exposure.

In the short term, acute photo keratopathy can result, akin to sunburn of the cornea, which can cause severe pain and inflammation.

NOTE:
cataracts are a developing cloudiness of the lens
macular degeneration is damage to the retina
pterygium is an overgrowth of the conjunctiva on to the cornea, and
climatic droplet keratopathy is cloudiness of the cornea
For more information or to arrange an interview contact Emma Carr or Josie Faunce at RANZCO on 02 9690 1001 and media@ranzco.edu

Last updated: November 29, 2018

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