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Women2Day - Health: Keep your eyes open for signs of summer

Summer is here, and it's time to have some outdoor fun.

With bank holiday season well under way, it's time to think about having outdoor fun.

But while bright sunny days and trips to the seaside are all part of summer fun, the trouble is they can put your eyes at risk.

Sunglasses are as essential as sunblock, says Carolyn Zweig, a Boots Optometrist.

"Protecting your eyes is vital, as too much exposure to harmful ultraviolet (UV) rays in sunlight can accelerate the growth of cataracts or macular degeneration, both of which can cause blindness," she warns.

"Eyes are delicate - children and people with light coloured eyes are most at risk from sun damage. And reflected light from the sea or pools is as dangerous as strong sunlight."

Carolyn advises that people look for sunglasses with a CE mark, which are up to European safety standards or BS EN 1836:2005, which are up to British standards for UV protection.

You could try Boots adult sunglasses, from £10, and children's sunglasses, £12, www.boots.com.

Getting an eyeful

Summer breezes can blow insects, specks of dust and grit into your eyes, says Dr Chris Steele from ITV's This Morning.

"If the particle can be seen on the white of the eye or inside the lids, pick it off using the moistened corner of a clean tissue or cotton-tipped bud," he advises.

"Alternatively, try to wash it out of your eye using cold water or a prepared eye wash."

If none of these methods work, Chris suggests applying a soothing eye drop to help make the eye more comfortable - and visiting your GP. Visit www.thefamilygp.com  for more information.

Try - Boots Eye Wash with Eye Bath (300ml), £4.99, www.boots.com

Dry eyes

Hot, dry weather, trips on planes and working or staying in air-conditioned rooms, can be painful for dry eye sufferers.

"If your eyes regularly sting, itch or burn, or you feel you have a 'foreign body' floating about, you may be experiencing the common signs of 'dry eye'," says Dr Susan Blakeney from The College of Optometrists.

"Dry eye can be caused by ageing or because you're not producing enough good-quality tears. It can also make wearing contact lenses difficult and can lead to irritation."

See your optometrist who will advise you on how to manage this problem. Treatment may include over-the-counter moisturising drops to lubricate eyes, especially during the summer months, advises Blakeney.

Try - Systane Lubricating Eye Drops (10ml), £6.85, www.systane.co.uk ; Opti-Free Replenish Travel Pack (120ml), £6.95, www.opti-free.co.uk .

Pool and pollen perils

Swimming in pools and hay fever are the most common cause of sore, red, itchy and watery eyes that sometimes have a sticky discharge.

"Most swimming pool water contains the chemical chlorine, which can irritate the eyes causing conjunctivitis," says Dr Steele. "If the soreness is caused by hay fever and you have typical symptoms, like sneezing, itchy nose and throat, you've got seasonal allergic conjunctivitis."

If hay fever's the cause, Dr Steele advises protecting your eyes with wrap-around sunglasses, keeping windows and doors shut on high pollen count days and trying antihistamine eye drops or tablets. If symptoms last more than a few days, contact your GP.

Try - Boots Hay Fever Relief Eye Drops (10ml), £4.69.

Eye up the facts

- After the brain, eyes are the most complex organs we have.

- Eyes can process 36,000 bits of information every hour.

- Most of us blink around 17,000 times each and every day.

- It's impossible to sneeze with your eyes open.

- Around 40 per cent of people never wear sunglasses and 76 per cent don't make kids wear them, according to research by Boots and The College of Optometrists.

Eye-opening illness

General health issues are easily spotted by a high street optician during a 30-minute eye examination. A check-up every two years can make a massive difference. Here are some of the illnesses that can be spotted...

Hypertension, otherwise known as high blood pressure, can cause heart attack.

Danger signs: Damage to blood vessels in the retina.

High cholesterol, a fatty substance in blood which can raise the risk of heart attack.

Danger signs: There may be a visible thin white line circling the iris, which is the coloured part of the eye.

Brain tumours are tissue growths that can be cancerous or non-cancerous.

Danger signs: A swelling of the optic nerve can be a sign of brain tumour, as can blind spots in your vision.

Thyroid disease can cause the thyroid gland (which regulates metabolism and energy) to produce too many hormones causing health problems.

Danger signs: Bulging or protruding eyeballs.

Diabetes can increase the risk of heart disease, stroke and kidney disease.

Danger signs: High blood-sugar levels damage tiny blood vessels in the retina - inside the eye - causing leaks of blood and fatty deposits.

Strokes can be caused by a brain blockage or bleed. People can have a series of minor strokes without noticing before suffering a major one that may result in paralysis or death.

Danger signs: Blind spots in your vision.

 

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