Protecting Your Eyes from the Summer Sun

By David Blyweiss, M.D., Advanced Natural Wellness

July 24, 2019

When K.L. popped into the office the other day, she looked horrible. Her eyes were bloodshot and swollen.

The appointment was supposed to be nothing more than a quick follow-up from a previous visit. But I had to ask.

“What’s going on with your eyes?”

K.L. waved her hands in front of her face and said, “It’s nothing. This always happens when I spend too much time in the sun. But it only takes a couple of days before it goes away.”

I hear stories like this all too often.

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Patients, friends and co-workers head outdoors for a fun day of sun. They slather their skin with sunscreen to avoid sunburn. But they completely forget that their eyes can get sunburned, too.

It’s not as noticeable as the red, itchy and blistered skin that appears when your body gets too much sun. But the signs are still there…

Your eyeballs are on fire. It feels like beach sand, barbeque smoke or shards of glass are ingrained into your pupils. Bright lights make you squint. You can hardly see straight.

Well I have to tell you. Even if these annoying effects don’t appear to be long-lasting, they may come back to haunt you later.

You see, every time UV rays bombard your eyes, the damage accumulates. This leads to a degeneration of the cells in your eyes… which contributes to the development of cataracts and AMD. In particular, people with high sun exposure are at significantly higher risk of developing age-related macular degeneration, or AMD.

While cataracts can be corrected with surgery, there is currently no cure for AMD… only treatments that can help slow down its progress. And these treatments aren’t pretty. They involve getting regular injections into the eye with a small gauge needle.

In the meantime, macular degeneration is one of the leading causes of blindness in the world today. It starts with visual distortions and blurriness. It becomes harder to see in low light conditions. Central vision begins to decrease, and it becomes more difficult to identify faces.

The wet form of AMD is even worse. This occurs when membranes start to break down begin leaking blood and fluid under the macula. This can result in a rapid loss of vision. However, if it is caught quickly enough, the loss of vision may be reversible. If not, it can become permanent within a matter of weeks.

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The Wrong Sunglasses can be
Devastating for Your Eyesight

Now I’ll tell you a secret about K.L.

She buys “cute” sunglasses. That is her only criteria.

It’s no wonder her eyes get sunburned when she wears them!

I told K.L., and I’ll tell you, too: The #1 criteria for buying sunglasses are to look for ones with a label that says “100% protection against both UVA and UVB” or “100% protection against UV 400.”

These are the only sunglasses that will protect your eyes from the UV damage that promotes cataracts and AMD. (Truth: Dark tinted glasses that aren’t UV rated don’t do anything to block UV rays. All they do is keep you from squinting in bright sunlight.)

In addition to wearing UV rated sunglasses, there are certain nutrients that can protect against AMD – and help prevent it from progressing if caught in early to intermediate stages.

You see, your macula is comprised almost entirely of zeaxanthin and lutein. A lack of these carotenoids can cause your macula to thin and degenerate.

But when you get plenty of them, they protect the macula by absorbing the harmful rays from the sun. They also act as powerful antioxidants to shield your eyes from free radical damage.

Plus, people with the highest intakes of lutein and zeaxanthin are less likely to develop drusen and leaky blood vessels behind the macula. They also have a greatly reduced risk of developing AMD.

Some foods that contain these powerful antioxidants are dark leafy greens such as kale, turnip greens, collards, spinach and chard. So it’s not hard to get more of them in your diet.

But for maximum protection, I recommend looking for an eye formula that contains at least 12 mg of lutein and 2 mg of zeaxanthin and taking it daily.

Wearing UV blocking sunglasses and taking these two eye antioxidants every day can go a long way to protect your sight and keep you independent as you age. And if wearing the right pair makes you look good too… you win on two levels.


Sui GY, et al. Is sunlight exposure a risk factor for age-related macular degeneration? A systematic review and meta-analysis. Br J Ophthalmol. 2013 Apr;97(4):389-94.

Tan JS, et al. Dietary antioxidants and the long-term incidence of age-related macular degeneration: the Blue Mountains Eye Study. Ophthalmology. 2008 Feb;115(2):334-41.

Hobbs,RP, Bernstein PS “Nutrient Supplementation of Age related Macular Degeneration, Cataract, and Dry Eye” Journal of Opthalmic and Vison Research 9 (4):487-493 2014

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