HAPPY EYESON HOLIDAY
Holidays should be all about rest and relaxation. But dry, sore eyes can leave you feeling less than your best. Air conditioning, chlorine and sun are a potent combination that can leave you feeling uncomfortable and irritable.
Spending a lot of time in the sun, or being exposed to high levels of ultra-violet (UV) light without adequate protection, carries more serious risks for your eyes. Excessive sun exposure also increases the likelihood of cancer developing in the skin around your eyes.
You can take some simple steps to manage these risks without drastically changing your everyday plans. Wearing a broad-brimmed hat, for example, blocks almost 95% of UV light.
“The transparent cells at the front of your eyes (through which light passes on its way to your retina) can become cloudy and opaque - if exposed to high levels of UV light for an extended period.”
Air-conditioning removes humidity and dries the air - so getting dry eyes on flights is very common. Add in the air-conditioning from hotels, taxis, and bars, and it’s no wonder many people suffer from dry eyes on holiday. To keep your eyes well moisturised, keep some preservative-free sprays and drops handy.
Chlorine (from swimming pools) dehydrates and strips away the protective tear film that covers your eyes – which is why you get red, watery eyes or blurred vision after spending a day in the hotel pool. Wearing swimming goggles helps prevent this, as well as rinsing your eyes with fresh water. And remember, contact lenses are never (ever) safe to wear while swimming.
Alcohol causes dehydration and can also lead to dry eyes. That’s why, with a hangover (headaches and thirst), you’ll also notice that your eyes are dry and burning. Make sure you drink plenty of water to counteract the dehydration. As before, you should boost the moisture in your eyes with (preservative-free) sprays and drops.
Some travel medications, like anti-sickness tablets or antimalarials, can cause your eyes to dry out. If you’re taking this medication when you travel, a moisturising eye spray and drops will help relieve the symptoms.
Like sunburn on your skin, you can get sunburn on your eyes(!). High-intensity UV light damages the epithelial cells on the front of the eye. In extreme cases, we get what’s called ‘Welder’s Eye’ or ‘corneal flash burn’. That’s why you get protective goggles when you use a tanning bed. If you don’t have protection, you’ll end up with painful eyes for a few days - or even worse, permanent damage to the front of your eyes (which affects and distorts the light entering your eyes).
As with any skin on the body, the skin around your eyes can develop cancer. Exposure to UV light increases this risk, so it’s essential to use a high-factor SPF sun cream on your face. The higher the SPF, the more protection you get. (We’d suggest SPF 30 or higher.) And remember - top up often, especially if you’ve been sweating or have been for a swim. Sunglasses (see below) and broad-brimmed hats give some further protection.
“Symptoms of sunburn on your eyes include blurry vision, watery eyes, light sensitivity, and bloodshot eyes. Your eyes may also feel gritty - like there’s something in them.”
Sunglasses don’t just shield your eyes from bright light - they block harmful UV light.
Buy sunglasses that carry the European Standard 'CE' Mark, UV 400 or British Standard Mark; these offer good UV light protection. Sunglasses sold under BS 2724 have a 'shade number'. 0 is the lightest shade, and 4 is the darkest (which gives you the most protection).
- Polarised lenses offer maximum protection against glare and UV light. Glare typically comes from light bouncing off flat surfaces - such as water, roads, snow and ice.
- Tinted lenses help to restore natural colour perception, improving your vision and protecting your eyes from UV light.
- You can even have a graduated tint making your lenses functional and fashionable - with a dark tint at the top that gets lighter at the bottom.
Non-UV absorbing lenses can be more harmful than not wearing any sunglasses. Your pupils open wider, letting in harmful UV light that isn’t blocked by the lenses.