How to protect and care for your eyes properly - even on holiday
Healthy holidays with TCS and Well
This episode is about protecting and caring for the eyes. Are light-coloured eyes more sensitive than dark eyes? And can chlorinated water or too much sunlight make you go blind? Prof. Dr. Dr. Sebastian Wolf, Chief Physician and Co-Clinical Director of the University Clinic for Ophthalmology at the University Hospital of Bern (Inselspital Bern) explains what you should look out for.
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Co-Clinical Director of the University Clinic for Ophthalmology at the University Hospital of Bern (Inselspital Bern)
Interview with Prof. Dr Dr Sebastian Wolf
In summer, we often forget that it’s not just our skin, but also our eyes that need protection from the sun. What are your top recommendations from a medical perspective?
In bright sunshine, I would recommend sunglasses to protect the eyes, especially on high mountains, on the beach and on the water.
Are light-coloured eyes more sensitive than dark eyes?
No, eye colour is only a minor factor in the sensitivity of our eyes to light. Only in patients with albinism is the pigmentation of the iris so low that they suffer from sensitivity to light and glare even at normal light intensity.
What advice do you have for people with dry or sensitive eyes?
For people with dry eyes, eye drops (artificial tears) can be very helpful. You can use them frequently (5 times a day or more), depending on the degree of discomfort. Protective goggles are often also helpful as they prevent the eyes from drying out.
When choosing a pair of sunglasses, many people primarily base their decision on how they look. What characterises a high-quality pair of sunglasses in your view?
Today, almost all “real” sunglasses provide good or very good protection against UV radiation. Therefore, if you check for the CE mark when you buy sunglasses, you can be sure that the level of sun protection is good. When choosing sunglasses for driving, it’s important to make sure that they are not too dark. For example, sunglasses with a transparency of 8 to 18 percent (glare protection category 3) are suitable for driving, but sunglasses with less transparency (glare protection category 4) should not be worn for driving.
Many people suffer from dry, burning eyes when on long-haul flights. What advice do you have for them?
The air on planes is often very dry. Applying eye drops (artificial tears) every 2 to 3 hours can help in this case. You should avoid wearing contact lenses on long-haul flights, as the dry air can often cause problems.
Swimming in chlorinated water causes problems for many people, not only during the summer holidays. What should we do if we experience discomfort after a visit to the pool?
The issue here is that chlorinated water irritates the eyes, so you should avoid getting chlorinated water in your eyes. But if you do get chlorinated water in your eyes and your eyes become red, you can use lubricating eye drops to soothe them. That said, your eyes usually return to normal quite quickly, even without treatment.
Can you go blind from chlorinated water or too much sunlight?
You can’t go blind from chlorinated water or too much sunlight. However, severe irritation of the eyes caused by chlorinated water can make it impossible to keep the eyes open, which effectively leads to a kind of “blindness”. Also, too much sunlight can cause superficial damage – “sunburn” – of the cornea. This can be very painful and result in you no longer being able to open your eyes. So to some extent, it is like being “blinded”.
Can the cornea regenerate itself?
The cornea usually regenerates within 24 hours after severe sun damage, but it can take longer. If you do not notice any improvement after 24 hours, you should go to an ophthalmologist. You can support regeneration of the cornea by applying eye ointments.
What new eye problems should you see a specialist about?
It’s always a good idea to consult an ophthalmologist if you develop any new eye problems. Redness of the eyes is usually not an acute emergency, but if it happens to you and you wear contact lenses, you should stop wearing them and consult an ophthalmologist to find out the cause of the redness. Bleeding under the conjunctiva looks very dangerous, but is almost always harmless. If you have suffered a traumatic injury involving acute eye problems, you should see an ophthalmologist as soon as possible. Similarly, sudden vision changes are an indication of serious eye disease. For example, visual field defects or seeing flashes, dots, spots or floaters can indicate retinal detachment. If you experience this, you should consult an ophthalmologist immediately.
Eye protection for children
Children’s eyes need special protection
Sun damage is most harmful in childhood. With this in mind, remember to protect your children’s eyes by having them wear a wide-brimmed hat and sunglasses with side shields to block the sun’s ultraviolet rays. Ophthalmologists regularly warn of the chronic damage that UV radiation can cause. It is considered a cause of increasingly poor vision in old age because it causes cataracts and age-related macular degeneration (AMD).
Do not use this information as the sole basis for making health-related decisions. Consult your doctor or pharmacist if you have any health complaints. Surfing the internet is not a substitute for seeing a doctor.
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