by Cam Mitchell

With summer on the horizon and cycling season in full swing, we can easily get carried away and forget to protect ourselves against the potentially harmful rays of the sun. Though it may seem harmless at the time, forgetting to apply sunscreen or put on sunglasses can pose a danger to your health and vision.

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While cyclists can be easily identified by their seemingly permanently tan lines and take some pride in the look, it’s nevertheless very important to protect yourself when spending hours outside.

The primary threat from the sun is its ultraviolet (UV) radiation. The UV Index has made many more aware of the risks of sunburn and skin cancer, but UV radiation can also harm your eyes. Over time, exposure to UV rays can cause various forms of eye disease and can accelerate ageing by damaging the sensitive skin around the eyes. The damaging effects can include sunburn of the cornea, cataracts, cancer and photoaging of the skin.

Exposure to UV radiation is estimated to account for roughly 20 per cent of all cataracts; a condition which causes 50 per cent of blindness worldwide. Despite an awareness of the risk posed by UV exposure, many are ostensibly indifferent to their own protection.

Here are six ways to protect your eyes from harmful UV rays:

1) One in five people wear sunglasses regularly. Make sure you have a few pairs of sunglasses – sports pairs that are comfortable for training and racing, and perhaps a more casual pair for driving and walking around.

2) Everyone is at risk. Up to 50 per cent of UV damage occurs before the age of 18. Therefore all should take extra care to wear sunscreen and sunglasses.

3) 10 per cent of skin cancer occurs around the eyes. Don’t only protect your skin but your eyes as well.

4) Sun damage to eyes can occur anytime during the year, not just in the summertime, so be sure to wear UV-blocking sunglasses and a cycling cap when you are riding.

5) Don’t be fooled by clouds; the sun’s rays can pass through haze and thin clouds.

6) Never stare at the sun. Looking directly at the sun at any time, looking at the sun can cause damage to the eye’s retina.

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