In the summertime, the days are longer and the sun is stronger, so we must take extra care to protect our eyes from the damaging effects of ultraviolet light.

Just as sunlight can produce a sunburn on the skin, beachgoers can experience pain, decreased vision, redness and light-sensitivity beginning within hours of returning from the beach due to the exact same process - uv-induced irritation to the surface of the eye, much like a sunburn. Fortunately, although uncomfortable, this condition usually resolves quickly.

However, there are long term, cumulative effects of UV light exposure to the eye. Chronic exposure to UV light can increase the risk of benign growths on the white of the eye known as pinguecula. These growths can sometimes extend onto the cornea, at which point they are called a pterygium. If they grow large enough, they can even affect vision and should be surgically removed.

Long term Ultraviolet light exposure has also been implicated as a contributing cause to the formation of cataracts and the development of macular degeneration.

So when you go outside this summer, be sure to wear your UV-protecting sunglasses, even in the shade.