Summer months are filled with fun outdoor activities. Whether you are at play or working around the house, it’s important to protect your eyes. As an eye doctor, I want to pass on some tips about how to protect your eyes from sun damage and injury.

Just as exposure to bright sunlight can damage your skin, it also may increase your risk of developing cataracts, age-related macular degeneration and growths on the eye, including cancer.

When outside during the day, the first line of defense is to wear a broad-brimmed hat and sunglasses that block harmful UV rays. Excessive exposure to UV light reflected off sand, snow, water or pavement can damage the front surface of your eye. Like your skin, your eyes never recover from UV exposure. The longer the exposure to bright light, the greater the risk is.

The American Academy of Ophthalmology offers these tips to protect your eyes from the sun:

  • Select sunglasses that block UV rays. Don’t be deceived by color or cost. The ability to block UV light is not dependent on the price tag.
  • Make sure your sunglasses block 100 percent of UV rays and UV-B rays.
  • Ideally, your sunglasses should wrap all the way around to your temples, so the sun’s rays can’t enter from the side.
  •  In addition to your sunglasses, wear a broad-brimmed hat to protect your eyes.
  • Even if you wear contact lenses with UV protection, remember your sunglasses.
  • The sun’s rays can pass through haze and thin clouds. Sun damage to eyes can occur anytime during the year, not just in the summertime.
  • Sunglasses should be worn whenever outside. It’s especially important to wear sunglasses in the early afternoon and at higher altitudes, where UV light is more intense.
  • Everyone is at risk, including children. Protect their eyes with hats and sunglasses. In addition, try to keep children out of the sun between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m., when the sun’s UV rays are the strongest.

Eye protection also is important when it comes to household projects. According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology almost half of all eye injuries occur at home. These injuries often occur during everyday activities like home repairs, yard work, cleaning and cooking.  Most injuries occur when people are not wearing protective eyewear.

For most repair projects and activities around the home, standard ANSI-approved protective eyewear, available at most hardware stores, will be sufficient. Wear protection any time there is a risk of chemicals or flying debris coming in contact with your eyes. If an injury occurs see an ophthalmologist right away.

Follow these simple steps to protect your eyes and have a safe and happy summer.

Dr. Janice Contreras specializes in comprehensive ophthalmology, serving patients at the UTMB University Eye Centers in Galveston and Friendswood.