The topic of UV radiation damage to the eyes usually pops up in the days preceding a solar eclipse, but in reality, any prolonged period of time you spend outdoors (or driving) puts your vision at risk of damage.
Short-Term Effects of UV Radiation
There are three types of UV radiation: UV-A, UV-B, and UV-C. UV-C is completely blocked by Earth’s ozone layer and, it is only a threat to astronauts performing space walks. Both UV-A and UV-B can cause macular degeneration which can lead to loss of central vision, and while the cornea blocks most of the UV-B rays coming into the eyes, this form of UV radiation often results in permanent damage.
Have you ever spent a long day at the beach or on the ski slopes, then upon returning to your hotel or home notice that everything looks hazy? This is known as “corneal sunburn,” a type of short-term UV-B radiation damage which can last for several hours.
If you plan on taking part in any outdoor activities (especially near water or snow), always be sure to use shades with a UV400 rating or better as these will block over 99% of UV-B and UV-A rays.
Long-Term and Permanent UV Damage to the Eyes
While cataracts are the most commonly known, there are other long-term and permanent eye conditions that can result from prolonged or intense UV exposure. Wearing protective eyewear can help to prevent a number of long-term vision problems such as:
Cataracts. Excess exposure has long been linked to cataracts, but finally researchers with the National Eye Institute (United Kingdom) have pinpointed oxidative stress and the release of free radicals as the culprits to the clouding of the eye’s lens.
Pterygium and pinguecula. Pterygiums and pinguecula are non-cancerous skin growths emanating from the whites of the eyes and are caused by — you guessed it — excess exposure to the sun’s rays. While pterygium is often referred to as “surfer’s eye,” it can be found in anyone who spends excess hours in sunlight.
Cancers. Like UV-initiated cancers of the skin, certain cancers of the eye can be caused by UV damage.
Don’t Forget the Shades!
Your eyes are too precious to leave their health to chance. Be sure to pack your sunglasses whenever you are heading outdoors (even on a cloudy day) and attend regular checkups. Call Pycraft Family Eye Care in Wooster to book your next eye exam!