Shattering misconceptions about sun exposure
The need for a balanced conversation
It’s widely known that overexposure to the sun can have detrimental effects, including sunburns, dehydration, heat stroke, and skin cancer. This may cause your patients to think they should avoid the sun entirely–but, as you know, lack of sun exposure can negatively affect their health.
Around the world, people were captivated by the dramatic rescue of the Thai boys’ soccer team and many learned that during the rescue, the boys had to wear eye protection due to temporary photophobia. While going a few days without any sunlight may not be harmful, many patients might not be aware that extended periods of time without any sunlight can lead to medical issues such as photophobia, depression, or vitamin D deficiency. Most patients know it’s important to protect their eyes from the sun, however many may not realize it’s as important to receive some sunlight regularly for optimal ocular health. If you aren’t talking to your patients about how a lack of sunlight can negatively affect their health, they may be misinformed.
Explaining the risks of sun damage to the eyes
Your patients know they shouldn’t stare directly at the sun due to the potential of irreparable damage to their eyes. However, they may not have a good understanding of exactly what that damage could be. Since UV radiation can easily reflect off of many surfaces such as water, sand, and ice–as well as penetrate cloud cover–it’s important to stress the need for eye protection no matter the weather. Emailing a patient an informative UV filter video
or playing a video in your waiting room that explains sun risks can help ensure your patients retain your critical messages when you encourage them to use precautionary measures to protect their eyes.
Having a clear understanding of risks is especially paramount for patients whose profession requires being outdoors for extended periods of time or for those who frequently enjoy outdoor activities including fishing, skiing, or surfing. Warn your patients that failure to protect their eyes could lead to pinguecula, cataract, pterygium, or in certain cases, even snow blindness. Practices located in regions where people frequently enjoy snow activities like skiing and snowboarding, could easily educate patients on the risks of snow blindness with this winter sun protection video.
Exposure can be just as crucial as protection
While advising patients to protect their eyes from the sun may be second nature for you, be sure to balance the conversation to highlight the importance of some, safe exposure as well. Exposure to sunlight encourages the body to produce the melatonin needed for a well-regulated sleep cycle. Inadequate levels of melatonin can lead to insomnia–a factor in many health issues including heart disease, depression, and a weakened immune system. Lack of sleep can be detrimental to eye health causing issues from eye spasms, eye strain, and even dry eye.
Encourage parents to limit their children’s device use and get outside. A number of recent studies suggest that a lack of direct sunlight may reshape the human eye and impair vision. In addition, they suggest that sunlight may be essential for normal eye development in children and may even help reduce myopia. Although, children should still wear UV-blocking sunglasses or hats while outside to reduce harmful risks, sunlight exposure can potentially bolster their vision. Including Rendia’s UV Protection for Kids
and Sunglasses for Children videos as part of your patient education protocol will help parents know the correct precautions.
Conveying the risks and benefits
Like anything else in life, it’s important to maintain a healthy balance when it comes to sun exposure. Protection is critical to preventing the harmful effects of the sun and reminding patients to protect their eyes by wearing sunglasses, variable tint lenses, polarized lenses, hats, and sunscreen is essential. However, understanding the benefits of safe sun exposure to maintain eye health is also needed. Encourage patients to include sunlight as part of their eye health regimen and empower them to do it safely.