Top Tips for Looking After Your Eyes in the Sun
We all know that we should never look directly at the sun – it was drilled into us throughout our childhood and many of us have likely repeated the lesson to our own children. But do you know who didn’t get the memo? The great polymath astronomer, Galileo.
The story goes that one day, while Galileo was minding his own business surveying the endless wonder of the universe, he happened to hover his telescope over the sun’s immense rays and was instantly blinded in both eyes. That’s right, in a sort of poetic (and tragic) irony, Galileo lost his sight doing what he loved most. Of course, the story is nothing more than that – a story.
The detail that gives it away? Well, the simple fact that stargazers tend to use one eye when observing the skies through a telescope. But there’s no denying that it’s a good story and it holds an important lesson. Yet, the truth about Galileo’s loss of vision is, in fact, much more mundane. He actually lost his sight as an old man thanks to a combination of cataracts and glaucoma.
In all honesty, the likelihood of anyone going blind from looking at the sun is extremely slim (though not impossible). But that’s not to say that we have all been avoiding the suns direct glare for no reason. Solar rays can indeed cause significant damage to our eyes and Galileo’s solar explorations likely did play a role in the gradual deterioration of his eye health.
Reaching a temperature of 15 million degrees Celsius and accounting for 99.86 per cent of the mass in the entire solar system, the sun affects all life on this planet — and in fact, is the very reason for it. As Galileo said himself: “The sun, with all those planets revolving around it and dependent on it, can still ripen a bunch of grapes as if it had nothing else in the universe to do.”
And just as easily as it has brought life, it can take it away. So in order to live in harmony with the giant benevolent yellow dwarf star, we need to take the right precautions and measures to keep ourselves, and in particular our eyes, safe:
Wear sunglasses that protect your eyes from all kinds of solar rays
Sunglasses are an obvious choice when it comes to protecting our eyes from the sun. But it’s important to make sure you’re wearing the best-quality shades that protect against all kinds of solar rays. UVA and UVB are the most harmful forms of light emitted from the sun. They are considered a major contributor to the formation of cataracts and the development of skin cancer and play a significant role in macular degeneration.
But High-energy Visible (HEV) light – also known as ‘blue light’ – can also lead to similar problems, with recent studies showing it penetrates the skin even deeper than UV rays.
It’s never too early to start protecting your eyes from the sun
These days, we often think of sunglasses and hats as simple fashion accessories, but the truth is, they play a major role in protecting our eyes from the sun – and it’s never too early to make use of them.
Some experts suggest that as much as 80% of our lifetime’s exposure to UV rays occurs before we reach the age of 18. One reason for this may be that children’s eyes absorb more UVA rays to the retina compared with adults. However, it is likely partially due to the amount of time children spend in the sun without protection. Educating children from a young age about the dangers – as well as making sure they are wearing high-quality sunglasses and hats – can be an effective way to limit this exposure.
Look after your eyes year-round, even on cloudy days or when in the shade
It’s easy to think that sunglasses and other protective measures are only required on bright, sunny days. While it is true that shade and clouds do reduce the power of the sun to some degree, UV rays can still cause damage to your eyes even on overcast days. Even in the depths of winter, rays from the sun can be extremely harmful.
Furthermore, these harmful rays reflect from surfaces around us, including buildings, roads, and in particular, water – so there is literally no escape from them! Consider carrying a pair of sunglasses or a hat with at least a 3-inch brim in all kinds of weather, all year round.