Virtually everyone is exposed to UV rays on a daily basis. Even though this is the case, the potential risks related to many years of exposure to these unsafe rays are not often considered, to a point where the majority of people barely take enough action to shield their eyes, even when they’re expecting to be exposed to the sun for a long period of time. Overexposure to UV is unsafe and irreversible, and can cause several serious, vision-stealing conditions in older age. And so, continuing protection from these rays is equally important for everybody.
There are two types of UV rays: UVA and UVB, both of which are damaging. Despite the fact that only minimal amounts of UVA and UVB light hit the inner eye, the ocular tissue is extremely vulnerable to the harmful effects of their rays. Small amounts of this kind of exposure can result in sunburnt eyes, also known as photokeratitis. When UVB rays enter the cornea, the cells that make up its exterior are severely damaged and this can cause blurred vision, pain or in serious cases, temporary blindness. UVA rays actually penetrate much deeper into the eye, which causes damage to the retina.
A great way to protect your eyes from UV rays is through the use of high quality sunglasses. Be sure your sunglasses or prescription glasses block 100% of both UVA and UVB rays. Wearing an inadequate pair of sunglasses can be even worse than having no sunglasses at all. Basically, if sunglasses offer no UV protection, it means you’re actually getting more UV rays. Such sunglasses will reduce the light, forcing the iris to open and allow even more light in. And this means even more UV will be hitting your retina. It is important to check that your sunglasses give effective UV protection.
Going out in a broad brimmed hat or baseball cap can also block up to fifty percent of UV rays. These hats will also reduce UV rays that hit your eyes from above or around glasses.
Years of exposure to UV rays can also result in an abnormal tissue growth on the eye, called pterygium. This is a narrow, wedge-shaped tissue growth with blood vessels that grow over the white part on the surface of the eye. In addition to being aesthetically unsightly, a pterygium can be uncomfortable, and can even affect the shape of the eyeball, which will cause astigmatism. If the pterygium starts to grow over the cornea, it can affect vision and may result in surgery. Because pterygia are caused by long-term UV exposure, it’s completely preventable.
Make an appointment to speak with your eye care professional about the various UV protection options, which include adaptive lenses, polarized lenses and fixed tint sunglasses.