We are usually quick to lather our skin with sun screen lotion when we head out for a run, but how many of us consider the need to protect our eyes as well? I, for one, am very guilty of not doing much. I usually wear a cap but with my runs getting longer and more frequent, I’m starting to feel that a cap alone is not enough especially as most of my runs are in broad daylight. But as I don’t look good in sunglasses, I find myself asking if they are really necessary? How harmful are the sun’s rays to our eyes? How important is it for us to protect our eyes on the run? To answer these questions, Dr Ninani Kombo is guest blogging for me today. Dr Kombo is a graduate of the Yale School of Medicine and the Yale Residency in Ophthalmology. She specialises in comprehensive ophthalmology, ocular immunology and inflammation. She is also the Director of Medical Student Education for Ophthalmology at the Yale School of Medicine.
She is an awesome mum of three and although not a runner (yet) she was an avid sportswoman at High School and College, and played tennis for Botswana, representing the country in several tournaments including the Federation Cup. If you are wondering how I have access to such a specialist, she’s also my amazing sister-in-law, Ditiro’s older sister, and without batting an eyelid 😉 she graciously agreed to write this post for us. She focuses on the dangers of prolonged exposure to the sun and then briefly looks at what we can do to protect our eyes.
We Only Get One Pair!
Eye protection is one of my favourite topics. Let’s start with the eyelids. Just like the skin on the rest of your body, they are susceptible to damage from ultra violet (UV) rays, especially the lower lids. Over the years, this can lead to skin cancers called basal and squamous cell cancers.
The whites of your eye are covered with a thin membrane called the conjunctiva. Prolonged exposure to the sun can cause the conjunctiva to become red and irritated. This gives you that red-eye appearance. Prolonged UV exposure can cause thickening in the inner and outer conjunctiva causing lesions such as pinguecula and a wing-shaped lesion called a pterygium. Pterygia can grow onto the clear part of the eye, the cornea. They can affect your vision by causing astigmatism (irregular shape of your cornea) and in some cases, a pterygium can actually grow large enough to cover the visual axis which can cause severe decrease in vision. In both cases, surgery is needed to remove the pterygium.
Our eyes have a natural lens that sits right behind the colored part of your eye, the iris. The lens helps us focus images on the retina. UV rays can accelerate clouding of your lens known as cataract. The back of our eye is made up of the retina. The central part, called the macula, is responsible for our sharp vision. The macula can sustain damage from UV rays and develop macular degeneration, one of the most common causes of loss of central vision.
It’s not just UV rays we are worried about. Windy conditions and dry air can irritate the eyes by drying them out or blowing debris into them.
To protect your eyes, before you go out on your next run:
- Get yourself a pair of sunglasses that block UVA and UVB rays. Try them on at the store to ensure a good fit so they can withstand the constant movement during your run. Ensure they are comfortable as chances are you’ll quickly stop wearing them, if they are not. Make sure the sunglasses are close to your brow and wrap around the sides to provide full eye protection but without being too tight.
- Wear a cap for extra protection.
- If you run in windy conditions, use an artificial tear at the end of your run to help rinse out the debris.
Thank you to my nephew Lucito for being our gorgeous sunglasses model! And thank you Ninani for sharing why it’s so important to protect our eyes on the run. I loved how you explained the harmful effects to the different parts of the eye and I think having that understanding will force many of us to take eye protection more seriously. You’ll be pleased to know your brother wears his religiously when running, cycling and driving. He also varies his lenses, using lighter coloured ones for his cloudy or lowlight runs, clear glasses for nighttime and darker ones for his daytime runs. Now I just need to get myself a good pair!
How often do you protect your eyes on the run? Do you wear sunglasses for running? If yes, what did you take into consideration when buying them?
I’m joining Kooky Runner and Zenaida on their link up, Tuesday Topics. I’m also joining a new link-up, Runner’s Roundup with Mile By Mile, Coach Debbie Runs, Confessions of a Mother Runner, Runs with Pugs, Running on Happy, and Faux Runner! Hop on over to their blogs and others, and be inspired!