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UV protection UNICARE

UV protection UNICARE

Now that June’s heat wave is over, we are finally able to enjoy being outside again. However, just because the temperature has gone down doesn’t mean the sun’s dangers are gone.

Whether taking a walk through the park or a trip down to the Vltava river, the best way to enjoy the summer is to get outside. That said, long periods of sun exposure can be harmful to our skin and eyes, and precautions should be taken to ensure maximum health and safety.

The average UV index in Prague is 7 in June and 6 in May, July, and August. This means that there is a moderate risk of harm from unprotected sun exposure and that people with fair skin may burn in as little as 20 minutes. For protection, it is recommended that you wear wide brimmed hats or sunglasses to protect the eyes and scalp, and broad-spectrum (UVA and UVB) sunscreen with SPF 30 or higher. Be sure to apply the sunscreen around the eyes, nose, and ears, and use a lip balm with SPF.

Despite our best efforts to protect ourselves, too much sun exposure can still have negative effects as listed:

Eyes

Acutely, the eyes can develop photokeratitis, a painful condition that is essentially sunburn of the eyes. This affects the cornea, the clear front part of the eye, and the conjunctiva, the thin tissue covering the white of the eye. Photokeratitis can be caused by sun reflection from sand, water, and snow and result in pain, redness, tearing, and blurred vision. Long-term exposure to the sun’s ultra-violet (UV) rays can lead to retina (the back of the eye) and lens damage. A cataract is the gradual clouding of the lens of the eye, and can lead to blurred vision requiring surgery. Long-term exposure to UV radiation is also associated with macular degeneration which can lead to loss of central vision. Wearing sunglasses when outdoors and wearing a hat are both good ways to keep the sun out of your eyes to maintain optical health. Sunglasses should block 99-100% of UVA and UVB rays to be effective; if not, don’t buy them.

Skin

In the simplest terms possible, sunburn is damage and ultimately the death of our skin cells due to radiation from the sun. Ultra-violet radiation (UV) comes in three forms, but only UVA and UVB really affect us. When it comes to protecting ourselves from the sun, the best solution would be to stay inside but that’s not practical. Many people have to work outside, and others simply want to enjoy the summer weather. When venturing outside, it is best to wear sunscreen every day, regardless of whether you are going to the beach or just walking to the grocery store. Wearing a wide brimmed hat can help to protect your face from direct sunlight, and wearing lightweight long pants and long sleeve shirts can protect large portions of your skin from the sun, although it is important not to overdress when it’s hot outside. When possible, seek shade when the sun’s rays are strongest, generally between 10 am and 2 pm.

Long-term

The immediate effects of over exposure to the sun such as eye irritation and sunburn are annoying and painful. However, repeated sunburns and exposure to UV radiation can lead to complications such as skin cancer and eye disease. If you notice a change in vision or other eye problems (pain, blurred vision, seeing spots and squiggles or flashes of light, persistent redness or inflammation, a dark spot on the iris) be sure to make an appointment with one of our excellent ophthalmologists, and remember that a complete eye exam is recommended on an annual basis.  This can help detect eye diseases before any symptoms have occurred. Also remember to be on the lookout for signs of skin cancer. This is by no means a complete list, but symptoms of skin cancer may include a pearly skin bump or red nodule; a sore that heals and returns; a flat crusty lesion; a mole that changes in color or size; dark lesions on palms, soles, fingertips, toes, or mucous membranes; a small lesion with irregular borders that appear red, pink, white, blue, or blue-black.  

If you have anything on your skin that concerns you, please see one of our excellent dermatologists at Unicare for an evaluation to make sure that everything is alright, and schedule an annual exam to put your mind at ease.