John Denver is right. Sunshine on my shoulders makes me happy. But bright sunshine beating down on me–especially on white sand and beautiful beaches – is a real shock to the system. And both your eyeballs. If they could, they’d be screaming for relief, shade, a dark room or least a towel wrapped around your face and head.

Seriously, we love basking in the sun, yet rarely think of its effect on our eyes (not to mention our skin). And like most things in life, the sun has a bright side and a dark side. That dark side preys on our bodies’ vulnerabilities with something called ultraviolet rays. They blast your skin with the force of a fire hydrant, yet you barely know. Til you get inside, take a shower and see the redness, blisters and that painful burning sensation. All of these symptoms are warning signs from our skin.

Sadly, our eyes don’t have this Early Warning System. When they burn, they burn. The retinas of your eyes, unlike skin, have no nerve endings to say, “Hello, I’m hurting here. Get inside please.” No. The result is eyes that weaken in structure. And weaker eyes mean you’re more likely to get cataracts or face macular degeneration.

Keeping your eyes safe from the Dark Side of the Sun isn’t rocket science, nor does it cost a fortune. It’s simple. It’s common sense, and it will prolong your eyesight for years to come.

Prevent the Dark Side of the Sun from Hurting Your Eyes

Look Cool, Be Cool, Wear Your Shades. Avoid buying $1 sunglasses. Don’t cheap out on the shades. Choose sunglasses that offer ultraviolet protection, especially if you have sensitive eyes or had recent corrective eye surgery. One interesting fact: You should wear your shades even on cloudy days. While it’s overcast, UV rays are still hitting your eyes. Plus, your sunglasses will not make you look better, see more comfortably or protect your eyes when they are in your purse, your pocket or on the dashboard of your car. Get in the habit of putting them on whenever you are in the sun.”

Go Polar, polarized, that is. Polarized glasses are created to reduce glare by filtering out horizontal rays coming from road surfaces and bodies of water. Without getting real technical, polarized glasses reduce glare by allowing only vertical rays to “enter” through the lenses. The result, less glare. Your best bet is to get these types of sunglasses from your eye doctor vs. your local retailer. You just never know if those glasses are truly UV protected and/or polarized.

Avoid the UV Blast. While we don’t advocate being a total recluse, we do advise caution when you’re outdoors. UV rays are strongest between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. If you’re out and about during this time, do the smart stuff: Wear sunscreen, flip on a wide-brimmed hat and remember those cool shades that ward off glare and UV rays. If necessary, stay indoors until later in the afternoon.

Think Wide, Not Thin. Today’s most popular glasses are thin, small and barely cover the eyes. For maximum protection, buy eyeglass frames that are bit wider. These will protect your eyes. The most protective styles are wrap or shield style glasses. Now, don’t worry. We’re not talking aviation goggles, just wider glasses that cover your eyes.

Magic Glasses? No, they’re not magic, they’re photochromic. These lenses change from untinted to tinted when exposed to UV light. These make the perfect primary pair of prescription glasses, if you haven’t had your vision corrected surgically. You can see easily in low light conditions and still get the protection you need when you’re outdoors. If you want to have the best of both worlds, you can purchase designer sunglasses and replace the lenses with photo chromic lenses.

Have A Backup. It’s rare for virtually anyone to own one more of glasses at a time. Yet it’s very common to find yourself on a beach or remote location and your glasses crack, break or get lost. Nothing like the beauty of Maui when it’s blurry, foggy and unrecognizable. The solution is simple. Have a back-up pair of glasses. Ditto on your sunglasses.

Smudges, Smears and Scrapes. This is a “no duh,” but let’s just say it: Don’t wear dirty glasses or sunglasses. Smudges, smears, scrapes and scratches can limit your vision, and just be plain annoying. Scratched and dirty lenses can even cause eye strain and headaches. Just keep them clean.

Bottom line, your summer eye care is a lot of common sense. It’s all about being prepared and doing what’s best for your eyes.

Have a great summer, enjoy the sun and beware of the Dark Side of the Sun.

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