Monthly Awareness

Bright Ideas

UV Safety Month Shines Light on Skin and Eye Dangers

The skin is the body’s largest organ. It protects against heat, sunlight, injury, and infection. Yet, some of us don’t consider the necessity of protecting our skin.

During UV Safety Month, Federal Occupational Health, an agency within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, encourages people to take stock of how they’re taking care of our skin.

The need to protect the skin from the sun has become very clear over the years, supported by several studies linking overexposure to the sun with skin cancer. The harmful ultraviolet rays from both the sun and indoor tanning sunlamps can cause many other complications besides skin cancer, such as eye problems, a weakened immune system, age spots, wrinkles, and leathery skin.

There are simple, everyday steps you can take to safeguard your skin from the harmful effects of ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun:

Wear proper clothing. Protective clothing includes long-sleeved shirts and pants. Also, remember to protect your head and eyes with a hat and UV-resistant sunglasses. You can fall victim to sun damage on a cloudy day as well as in the winter, so dress accordingly all year round.

Avoid the burn. Sunburns significantly increase one’s lifetime risk of developing skin cancer. It is especially important that children be kept from burning as well.

Go for the shade. Stay out of the sun, if possible, between the peak burning hours, which, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the World Health Organization, are between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. You can head for the shade, or make your own shade with protective clothing — including a broad-brimmed hat, for example.

Use extra caution when at higher altitudes. You can experience more UV exposure at higher altitudes because there is less atmosphere to absorb UV radiation.

Apply broad-spectrum sunscreen. The broad-spectrum variety protects against overexposure to ultraviolet A (UVA) and ultraviolet B (UVB) rays. The FDA recommends using sunscreens that are not only broad spectrum, but that also have a sun protection factor (SPF) value of at least 15 for protection against sun-induced skin problems. Then re-apply sunscreen throughout the day, especially after sweating or swimming.

Protect your eyes. UV rays can also penetrate the structures of your eyes and cause cell damage. According to the CDC, some of the more common sun-related vision problems include cataracts, macular degeneration, and pterygium (a non-cancerous growth of the conjunctiva that can obstruct vision). Effective sunglasses should block glare, block 99% to 100% of UV rays, and have a wraparound shape to protect eyes from most angles.

Use the UV index. When planning your outdoor activities, you can decide how much sun protection you need by checking the Environmental Protection Agency’s UV index, which measures the daily intensity of UV rays from the sun on a scale of 1 to 11. A low UV index requires minimal protection, whereas a high UV index requires maximum protection.

Seeking Relief

July Is Juvenile Arthritis Awareness Month

Juvenile idiopathic arthritis (JIA), one form of juvenile arthritis, is quite prevalent, affecting more than 50,000 children in the U.S. alone. Overall, nearly 300,000 children have been diagnosed with some form of juvenile arthritis.

JIA is often referred to as juvenile rheumatoid arthritis (JRA) in the U.S. Other specific names and forms of juvenile arthritis include systemic onset JIA or Still’s disease, oligoarticular JIA (affecting fewer than five joints), polyarticular JIA (affecting five or more joints), enthesitis-related arthritis, and juvenile psoriatic arthritis. 

When juvenile arthritis first shows its symptoms in a child’s body, many parents write off swollen joints and fever as a flu bug, or think a sudden rash might have occurred from an allergic reaction. The symptoms might even recede slightly before showing up again, sometimes delaying diagnosis for quite some time. After all, who expects a small child to have arthritis?

Different forms of arthritis have varying life spans and degree of symptoms, but JIA is different — it’s an autoimmune disease that has the body actually warring with itself in its efforts to recover. While juvenile rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disorder, much like the adult version of rheumatoid arthritis, recent arthritis research shows that JIA stands alone, independent in how it actually attacks and affects a child’s body.

Most people don’t know that kids get arthritis. A child’s immune system is not fully formed until about age 18; so an autoimmune form of arthritis is especially aggressive in children, compromising their ability fight normal diseases and leaving them open to complications that may affect their eyes, bone growth, and more.

Signs and symptoms of juvenile arthritis include joint pain, swelling, fever, stiffness, rash, tiredness and fatigue, loss of appetite, inflammation of the eye, and difficulty with activities of daily living such as walking, dressing, and playing.

Juvenile arthritis can appear in children as young as 6 months and as old as 18 years. Young adults still suffer the pain of the juvenile forms of arthritis. Joint pain, reddened joints, and swelling that refuses to dissipate are the key symptoms. Rheumatologists are finding that the number of joints affected has a parallel connection to the severity of the disease and the likelihood of achieving total remission.

The Arthritis National Research Foundation funds arthritis research to find a cure for arthritis, and this includes trying to find a cure for the hundreds of thousands of children suffering each year with this debilitating disease.

By supporting arthritis research specific to juvenile arthritis every year, the foundation aims to provide hope for a better life for the kids and their families living every day with arthritis. To learn more about juvenile arthritis and donate toward much-needed research, visit curearthritis.org.