July is Eye safety awareness month. Some say eyes are the windows to the soul, and while that might be true, in clinical neuroscience we recognize that eyes can be a window into brain health. As a matter of fact, the eyes are literally an extension of the brain!
As discussed in our recent video, the visual system can sometimes be overlooked in people with brain injuries. There are two component functions of the visual system. The more obvious of the two is seeing, and the other less obvious are eye movements. Brain injuries are one of the most prevalent causes visual impairment, particularly in children. Brain injuries such as concussion and strokes can lead to any of a large list of vision problems, including double vision, trouble with focusing or tracks, or even misalignment of one’s eyes. We also see difficulties in the visual system in children with developmental or learning challenges, such as dyslexia.
However, there are other ways the visual system can become dysfunctional. One of these ways is through something we come into contact with every day, especially this time of year, sunlight.
July in Florida comes with intense UV exposure from the sun, and while UV exposure is often talked about in regards to sunburns and skin cancer, how UV exposure can affect the visual system can be overlooked as well. The visual system is comprised of many parts. Several of these components can be damaged by UV radiation from the sun such as the skin of the eyelid, cornea, lens, and retina. UV exposure can contribute to cataracts, macular degeneration, surfer’s eye, and other growths on the eye.
To protect your eyes, look for sunglasses that:
-Block 99 to 100 percent of both UVA and UVB rays
-Screen out 75 to 90 percent of visible light
-Have lenses that are free of distortions and imperfections
-Have lenses that are gray for proper color recognition
The color and degree of darkness sunglasses provide have nothing to do with the sunglasses' ability to block UV rays. Also, opt for wraparound sunglasses or close-fitting sunglasses with wide lenses that protect your eyes from every angle.
Children especially require UV protection for their skin and eyes as UV damage is cumulative, so protection, when they are young, translates to less overall damage in their lifetime. Also, children are more susceptible to retinal damage from UV rays due to their lens being clearer than an adult lens, which enables more UV rays to penetrate deep into the eye.
Therefore, make sure your kids' eyes are protected from the sun with good quality sunglasses. Another good tip is to have your child to wear a hat on sunny days to further increase UV protection.If you think that your child might have visual challenges, you are diligent with eye safety, and your optometrists say that the eyes are healthy, a chiropractic neurologist may be able to help identify the source of the visual challenges!