Protect your eyes — and your eyelids — from the sun

Chances are, your sun protection routine is missing a key area — one that’s highly vulnerable to potentially deadly skin cancers.

“So many of us protect our bodies and face with sunscreen, but we forget about the delicate area of the eyelid,” said Dr. Jennifer Sivak-Callcott, of Mon Health Oculofacial Surgery.

About 3 million Americans are diagnosed with basal cell carcinoma each year, and the lower eyelid is a common place for this tumor to occur.

How to protect your eyes and eyelids from the sun

Luckily, just a few more minutes of extra care can add the boosted protection you need in your summer skincare routine.

Wearing a large pair of sunglasses with UV protection or a hat with a brim is the best way to protect your eyes from harmful sun rays, according to Dr. Sivak.

If you’re spending time outdoors between 10 a.m.-4 p.m. — when the sun’s rays are strongest — she also recommends you wear sunscreen.

When looking for a pair of sunglasses, you don’t have to spend a ton of money to get the protection you need.

The American Academy of Ophthalmology recommends searching for those labeled “UV400” or “100 percent UV protection.” More affordable sunglasses can be just as effective as the expensive ones, and darkness of the lenses doesn’t indicate strength.

Risk factors for skin cancer

While no one is immune from eyelid cancer, there are certain factors that may increase cancer risks.

According to the CDC, people with the following risk factors have a higher chance of developing skin cancer, which may vary by cancer type:

— A lighter skin tone

— Family history of skin cancer

— A personal history of skin cancer

— High exposure to sun through work or recreation

— A history of sunburns, especially in early life

— A history of indoor tanning

— Skin that burns, reddens or becomes painful in the sun

— Blue or green eyes

— Blonde, red or light hair colors

— Large number of moles and/or freckles

When should I see a doctor?

Anyone experiencing a concerning change near their eyelids should seek early treatment from an eyelid expert. Getting help early on is especially important when it comes to treating the more dangerous and aggressive types of cancer that affect the eyelids.

The following symptoms should be treated by a doctor as early as possible:

— A lump or bump that bleeds or does not disappear after a month

— A lesion that’s growing in size

— A scaly area on or near the eyelid

— Persistent red eye or eyelid inflammation that does not respond to medication

— New flat or elevated pigmented lesions with irregular borders and growth

— Unexplained loss of eyelashes

If you have concerns, talk to your doctor or schedule an appointment with Dr. Sivak at 304-244-1689.

This column is provided by Mon Health.

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