Late spring heatwave poses vision risk to populations across Europe

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What ophthalmologists want patients to know ahead of UK bank holiday.

A woman in sunglasses sits in a pool float shaped like a flamingo. Photo credit: ©Semachkovsky – stock.adobe.com

Ophthalmologists warned against spring and summer eye risks. Photo credit: ©Semachkovsky – stock.adobe.com

As British citizens prepare to celebrate Monday’s bank holiday and families across Europe face a heatwave, ophthalmologists warn that vacationers are subject to severe vision risks. Dr David Teenan, leading ophthalmologist and UK Medical Director at Optical Express, issued an alert via press release ahead of the long weekend1.

“The timing of the expected heatwave across Britain will be perfect for many of us,” Dr Teenan said. However, he urged citizens to protect their eyes – and their children’s eyes – to avoid photokeratitis, microbial infection and other ophthalmological risks.

Ultraviolet rays are not the only factor posing a risk of lifelong eye damage, Dr Teenan warned. But obviously, the most important way to protect vision during vacation is with a quality set of sunglasses. Choosing a high grade of UV ray protection is vital, but so is fit. A pair of sunglasses with gaps, or that slide off the face, can add risk of sun exposure.

While wearing contact lenses beneath sunglasses can be easier, it also poses a significant risk if vacationers are near water, Dr Teenan said. On beach days and poolside, the ophthalmologist recommended leaving contact lenses at home. He warned that in either environment, contact lenses can contribute to microbial or Acanthamoeba keratitis. The infection can cause severe pain, and in extreme cases, can even result in permanent vision loss.

Maintaining a mindful attitude toward food and alcohol can also protect against eye damage. For example, drinking too much alcohol (or drinking too little water between alcoholic beverages) can have lasting impact. Dr Teenan warned that alcohol overuse and dehydration can cause vision problems. Vacationers who notice discoloured areas under their eyes, or yellowing in the whites of the eyes, should reduce alcohol consumption.

In addition, vacationers can and should embrace fresh local foods, like fish, which are high in omega-3 fatty acids. Dr Teenan said a balanced diet, even and especially during vacations, can help protect against age-related macular degeneration and cataracts. These healthy vacation habits will help maintain vision year after year and protect patients from many of the most common ophthalmological problems.

Reference

1. Heatwave risk to eyesight: 4 Essential Tips for healthy eyes this Bank Holiday. Press release. Optical Express; May 24, 2023. Accessed May 24, 2023.
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