The Sunshine Vitamin and Your Eyes

Posted: Tuesday 8th October 2019

It is now October and it probably hasn’t escaped your notice that the days are getting shorter and dark evenings are drawing in. You will probably know that Vitamin D is often called the sunshine vitamin because during the months from March to September our bodies can make Vitamin D with the help of sunlight, through direct contact through the skin. Small amounts of Vitamin D are also found in some foods such as oily fish, red meat, egg yolks and fortified foods such as cereals and infant formula.

Vitamin D helps regulate the amount of calcium and phosphate in the body. These nutrients are needed to keep bones, teeth and muscles and the eyes healthy. It has long been known that a lack of vitamin D can cause bonne problems and muscle aches, but the link to eye health has only recently been established.

It’s difficult for people to get enough vitamin D from food alone, so the NHS recommendation is that everyone in the UK over the age of 1 (including pregnant and breastfeeding women) should consider taking a daily supplement containing 10 micrograms of vitamin D during the autumn and winter. Babies under 1 should take 8.5 micrograms of Vitamin D.

A lack of vitamin D can lead to bone deformities such as rickets in children, and bone pain caused by a condition called osteomalacia in adults, and a recent study has revealed a link between dry eyes and Vitamin D deficiency. The study, by Turkish researchers found that both the uncomfortable feeling of having dry eyes and the visible signs on the surface of the eyes were worse in people with Vitamin D deficiency.

Most people can make enough vitamin D from being out in the sun daily for short periods with their forearms, hands or lower legs uncovered and without sunscreen from late March or early April to the end of September, especially from 11am to 3pm. It's not known exactly how much time is needed in the sun to make enough vitamin D to meet the body's requirements. This is because there are a number of factors that can affect how vitamin D is made, such as your skin colour or how much skin you have exposed. People with dark skin, such as those of African, African-Caribbean or south Asian origin, will need to spend longer in the sun to produce the same amount of vitamin D as someone with lighter skin.

But you should be careful not to burn in the sun, so take care to cover up or protect your skin with sunscreen before your skin starts to turn red or burn. It’s important to protect your eyes from the sun too, as UV light can damage the retina, the lens and the outer areas of the eye as well, so make sure you have well-fitting sunglasses meeting the British Standards for eye protection, which will have a CE mark. Although often a fashion item for adults, don’t forget that children should wear sunglasses too!

If you need any further advice, then please call in to your local branch, we are always happy to help.

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