Sunglasses not enough: Ophthalmologists consistently caution against relying solely on plain goggles to protect our eyes from the damaging impact of the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays. Image Credit: File

Dubai: After record July heat, climate activists say 2023 could be the hottest year on record. Ophthalmologists in the UAE have said wearing sunglasses is just not enough to protect our eyes in the scorching weather.

Two eye specialists who spoke to Gulf News said it is essential not to overlook the health of our eyes during the summer season.


Ophthalmologists consistently caution against relying solely on plain goggles to protect our eyes from the damaging impact of the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays.

Various painful conditions

“During Summer, wearing plain goggles is not enough as eyes must be protected by UV-filtering sunglasses for preventing redness and blurring of vision from a condition called photokeratitis,” said Dr Parth Joshi, ophthalmology specialist at Aster Hospital, Mankhool.

Another acute painful condition that can be caused by prolonged and unprotected exposure to sunlight is photo-conjunctivitis, said Dr. Borja Salvador, consultant ophthalmologist, at Barraquer Eye Hospital in Dubai.

“Long-term exposure to UV light has also been related to other diseases of the eyes, such as pterygium, which is called surfer’s disease, some types of eye or eyelid cancers, and even cataracts. Thus, it is very important to protect the eyes with certified UV sunglasses, hats, visors, or caps, and to avoid the peak hours of sun exposure.”

Dr Parth Joshi

Dr Joshi pointed out that direct sun gazing can also lead to a serious condition known as solar retinopathy which causes retinal damage that results from exposure to solar radiation.

“Polaroid glasses can offer protection from reflected sunrays for those engaged in driving and outdoor activities,” he said.

While using sunscreen with SPF is recommended for skin protection during summer, doctors emphasise keeping sunscreen away from the eyes and recommend using mineral-based sunscreens that stick to the skin and are less likely to run into the eyes.

Dry eyes, allergies

Additionally, staying hydrated by drinking plenty of water can help reduce eye strain. “Consuming antioxidant-rich foods, such as tomatoes, zucchini, melons, peaches, seeds, and nuts, can provide long-term benefits by protecting the vital parts of the retina,” said Dr Joshi.

The summer heat and low humidity can lead to dry eyes, aggravated by wind, dust, air conditioning, and swimming pool chemicals. To combat dry eye, staying well-hydrated and using proper artificial tears prescribed by an eye specialist are recommended.

Highlighting that seasonal allergies are also at their peak during summer, Dr Joshi said one should avoid rubbing eyes and take a doctor’s advice for eye itching.

“Regular use of eye lubricants, which are easily available and have no side effects, can offer relief from allergy-related discomfort,” he said.

Dr. Borja Salvado

Dr Salvador explained further about eye allergies. “Spring and summer are seasons in which the weather changes and pollen and dust levels may increase. This can aggravate certain allergies, some of which can affect the eyes.”

“Allergic conjunctivitis usually appears as redness, itchiness, and sticky tears. Other types of conjunctivitis, also known as pink eye, can be caused by viruses or bacteria. During the summer season, it is typical that the number of these infectious conjunctivitis increases. They easily spread through direct contact or sharing objects.”

He said it is vital to avoid touching the eyes and wash hands carefully before touching eyes, especially during the summer when the number of infectious conjunctivitis cases tends to rise. “Also, it is highly recommended to use goggles while swimming to avoid exposure to irritating agents or chemicals.”

Other risk factors

Dr Salvador also reminded people to protect their eyes during home improvement and sports activities during summer.

“During the summer holidays, many people decide to do home repairs or improvements, landscaping, or home painting. Many of these activities do present risks or hazards to the eyes, such as debris, fumes, paint, chemicals, dust, nails, etc. When in contact with the eyes, some of these products can cause serious problems which can affect vision permanently. It is extremely important to use correct protective eyewear while performing these jobs.”

Tennis balls, badminton shuttlecocks, golf balls, and other similar size objects can cause serious damage when impacting the eye. Other team sports, such as basketball or football involve sudden arm or hand movements that present a risk of eye trauma from other players at a close distance. “It is very important to use protective eye equipment and follow safety procedures as well,” said Dr Salvador.

Pointing out that regular eye checkups are very important as early detection can help address eye problems promptly, the two ophthalmologists recommend having eyes checked at least once a year to ensure optimal eye health.