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Brace yourself Florida: Here comes the H.E.A.T.

Have you noticed the sudden rise in our SWFL temperatures? It seems that summer has arrived in full force, and it’s only May!

With all that intense heat from the sun lately, we wanted to share some information about the power of the sun as it relates to your health —particularly your eye health— since May also happens to be Ultraviolet (UV) Awareness Month.

Believe it or not, heat itself is not a good indicator of UV radiation; harmful UV rays can have a strong presence even when outdoor temperatures are cold. This is because heat from the sun comes from infrared light in the sun’s rays, not UV light. Contrary to what some people believe, we can neither feel nor see UV light.

UV radiation levels experienced by humans are based on two factors: the sun’s position-of-the-moment and geographical location. The sun’s position/angle varies with the seasons, so the strength of UV rays also varies. Geographically speaking, the curvature of our spherical Earth provides a convex surface. The sun’s rays are strongest at the equator where the sun is most directly overhead: UV radiation is stronger here in Florida due to our proximity to the equator.

As our Florida summer intensifies, Snead Eye Group encourages you to remain vigilant about protecting yourself, especially your eyes! Although the rising mercury in our thermometers is not a reliable indication of UV radiation, we still think it’s a good reminder to make smart UV choices. In that spirit, we offer this H.E.A.T. acronym:

Healthy Sun – How much is too much?

In healthy doses, our sun is vital for life and health. After all, life on Earth and the food we eat would not exist without it. What’s more, when exposed to the sun, our bodies naturally produce vitamin D, “the sunshine vitamin,” which regulates our absorption of calcium and phosphorous — two minerals that assist in protecting against serious chronic diseases later in life such as osteoporosis, Type II diabetes, multiple sclerosis and many common cancers.

But how much is too much? That depends on your skin type. The “Fitzpatrick Scale” is a classification system first developed in 1975 by Thomas Fitzpatrick, MD, of Harvard Medical School. Depending on where you are on the Fitzpatrick Scale, daily sun exposure should generally be limited to the timeframes below.

For more detailed information about safe sun exposure, visit this helpful quiz from The Skin Cancer Foundation.

Eye Wear – What’s the safest bet for UV protection?

In terms of your eyesight, exposure to UV rays can burn delicate eye tissue and increase the risk of developing cataracts and cancers of the eye, so it is very important to choose sunglasses that block harmful UV rays.

Darker isn’t always better. While dark sunglasses decrease the amount of visible light that passes through the lenses compared with lighter lens tints, they don’t necessarily provide greater protection from invisible UV rays. Different treatments such as polarization, amber tinting, mirrored coating, or blue blocking can help you see better in certain conditions, but regardless of the color or design of the lenses, make sure your sunglasses block 100 percent UV.

Quality brands will typically be labeled with an indication that their lenses are UV protected. Ultimately, look for a label that states, “UV 400,” which blocks all light rays with wavelengths up to 400 nanometers: UV 400 lenses will protect your eyes from all UVA and UVB rays. If you have any doubts about the UV protection of your current sunglasses, contact us at any Snead Eye Group office for assistance.

To make the best choice for UV-protective eyewear, experts recommend asking a professional optician for help when choosing sunglasses. According to AllAboutVision.com, “Different tints can help you see better in certain conditions, and a knowledgeable optician can help you choose sunglass tints that are best suited for your needs.”

Art of Wellbeing – UV Light has some positive effects.

In addition to aiding in your body’s production of immune system-boosting Vitamin D, UV Rays have a few other positive attributes worth mentioning.

SKIN HELPER. UV is used for treating skin conditions such as psoriasis, where the skin sheds its cells too quickly and develops itchy, scaly patches. Exposure to UV slows the growth of the skin cells and relieves symptoms.

BACTERIA KILLER. UV can effectively deactivate or destroy microorganisms such as viruses and bacteria. For example, hanging soiled linens in the sun allows UV rays to penetrate the cell membranes of bacteria, destroying the DNA and stopping its ability to reproduce and multiply.

MOOD LIFTER. Research suggests that sunlight stimulates the pineal gland in the brain to produce certain chemicals called ‘tryptamines’ which can improve your mood.

Tips for Today – Some practical advice on sun exposure wherever you are, right now.

As previously mentioned, Floridians are particularly exposed to higher levels of UV radiation based on our geography. However, even if those people reading this from a northern state should take heed — you might be surprised at the UV-B radiation exposure in your area! As a rule, we should ALL pay attention to the UV-Index.

What is the UV-Index?

The UV Index (UVI) indicates the current intensity of UV-B radiation in a certain location: the higher the current UV Index reading, the higher the radiation levels, and, therefore, the more precautions you should take for protecting your skin and eyes. View today’s UV Index for your region at https://weather.com/maps/current-uv-index.

As the Florida heat intensifies, please allow it to remind you to guard your body and eyesight from undetected UV radiation. If you have any concerns about your eye health, whether UV-exposure related or not, contact the experts at Snead Eye Group for a consultation. The sooner we see you, the better our opportunity to address your specific needs.

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