Sunlight can damage the eyes in many different ways. This time of year, we should pay special attention to protecting one of our most precious gifts from the damaging rays.

Up to 10 percent of all skin cancers occur on the eyelids – a relatively small area of the body. These cancers are often treatable but leave scarring from surgeries designed to remove them.

Moving onto the surface of the eye we find other sun-related conditions. Pinguecula and pterygia are growths on the white part of the eye that sometimes grow onto the clear part of the eye, threatening vision. Surgeries on this part of the eye can be problematic, so prevention is the best policy. Cancers on this part of the eye are on the rise – up 300 percent over the past three decades or so.

The inside parts of the eye can also become damaged from excessive sunlight energy over your lifetime. Cataracts, macular degeneration, and melanomas inside the eye can all be attributed, at least in part, to the sun.

Protecting your eyes involves the use of sunglasses, hats and other shading strategies. Many facial moisturizing products contain UV protection. Children and young adults absorb a lot of ultraviolet light due to their young, clear eyes allowing a lot of light in. They are generally not very light sensitive so they don’t feel the need for protection. Also, they generally spend a lot of time outdoors participating in sports and outdoor recreation.

Sun protection is important in these and all populations to protect skin and eyes.

If you have a question concerning your eyes, ask Dr. Picken directly by emailing him at prairievisioncenter@gmail.com.

Dr. Jace Picken is an optometrist at Prairie Vision Center in Wahpeton

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