Protecting Your Eyes During a Run

Just before you head out for a run, you probably take care to protect your skin from UV rays by using sunscreen. Remember also that your eyes are exposed to the elements when you are outdoors as well.

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Just before you head out for a run, you probably take care to protect your skin from UV rays by using sunscreen. Remember also that your eyes are exposed to the elements when you are outdoors as well. Although summer is fading into fall, it is still crucial to protect your eyes and skin during your daily outdoor runs.

Protective Eyewear

“We should all be protecting our eyes from both visible light and UV light, throughout our lifetimes, because [sun exposure] can damage structures in the cornea, the lens of the eye and the retina, as well as the skin around the eyes or eyelids,” says Michael Repka, a professor of ophthalmology at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. He notes that studies have shown that ultraviolet exposure can result in increased risk for a range of vision-related problems, from heightened sensitivity to light and irritation to cataracts and possibly macular degeneration and skin cancers on the eyelid.

Remember that eye protection is important any season of the year, regardless of the weather. Dr. Dora Adamopoulos, an optometrist in VA, notes that 31% of UV light still comes through on cloudy days. Running in the winter? Snow-covered surfaces reflect up to 80% of UV rays.

Ophthalmologist Edward Kondrot MD notes that the darkness of the lens is not the deciding factor on which lenses to purchase. Also, although you may like the look of polarized lenses, they do nothing to fight UV rays. Look for glasses that advertise blocking up to 99% of UV rays or absorbing up to 400 nm. (Runners may also want to look for additional features such as non-fog lenses and flexible sweat-proof nose bridges so they are comfortable enough to keep them on during the entire run.)

For additional protection, you should also consider wearing a hat that shields the eyes from UV rays. In addition, running in early mornings or in the evenings when the sun is not quite as bright is protective. You can also take your run indoors to a treadmill on occasion.

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Nutrients that Protect the Eyes

In addition to shielding your eyes from the sun, you should also include five essential vision-protective nutrients in your daily diet, says Kerri Haynes MS RD.

• Lutein & Zeaxanthin – these carotenioids may help aid in the prevention of age-related macular degeneration and cataracts. They are found in brightly colored vegetables, dark leafy greens (such as spinach and kale), and lutein-rich eggs.

• Zinc – this mineral aids in the release of Vitamin A from the liver, which in turn supports the production of melanin, a protective pigment in the eye. Red meats, poultry and eggs are good sources. Plant sources of zinc include wheat germ, nuts, black-eyed peas and tofu.

• Vitamin E – an antioxidant that protects the body against free radical damage. Vitamin E is found in cooking oils such as soybean, safflower and corn. Nuts are also a great source of E.

• Vitamin C – in addition to boosting the immune system and protecting tissues, vitamin C may also help lower risk for age-related macular degeneration and visual acuity loss. Citrus fruits and berries are great sources of vitamin C.

• Omega-3 Fatty Acids: EPA and DHA are important for vision development and retinal function. Higher-fat fish is the best source (salmon, mackerel) but you can also find omega-3’s in flaxseed and walnuts.

References:
Washington Post – Sunglasses should be worn all year to protect eyes from UV rays.
Runner’s World – Five nutrients to protect your eyes

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