It's safe to assume that almost everybody is exposed to UV rays on a regular basis. But the potential dangers related to many years of exposure to these harsh rays are rarely thought through, to a point where the majority of people take little action to guard their eyes, even when they're planning on being exposed to the sun for an extended period of time. UV overexposure is unsafe and irreversible, and can cause more than a few severe, sight-damaging diseases later on in life. And so, continuing protection from UV rays is vital for everyone.
There are two types of UV rays: UVA and UVB, both of which are unsafe. Despite the fact that only tiny measures of UVA and UVB light enter the inner eye, the eye tissue is incredibly vulnerable to the dangerous effects of their rays. Intense, short-term of exposure can easily cause sunburnt eyes, or photokeratitis. When UVB rays enter the cornea, the cells that make up its exterior are significantly damaged, which can cause pain, blurred vision or in serious cases, temporary blindness. UVA rays can penetrate much deeper into the eye, which harms to the retina. After several years, not being protected from UV rays may cause significant and lasting damage to the eyes and vision. Out of the 20 million people with cataracts, an estimated 20 percent of cases are due to long-term exposure to UV rays.
An ideal way to guard your eyes from UV rays is with quality eyewear. Ensure that your sunglasses or regular glasses block both UVA and UVB rays completely. Wearing an unsatisfactory pair of sunglasses can be more harmful than having no sun protection at all. Consider this: if sunglasses don't give you any UV protection, you're actually being exposed to more UV rays. Sunglasses that are inadequate will block some of the light, which causes the iris to open and let even more light in. And this means that even more UV will reach your retina. It's important to check that your sunglasses give enough protection against UV.
Extended exposure to UV rays can also cause an abnormal tissue growth on the eye, which is called pterygium. This is a narrow, wedge-shaped tissue growth with blood vessels that spread over the white part of the eye's surface. In addition to being cosmetically unappealing, a pterygium can be uncomfortable, and can even alter the contour of the eyeball, which will cause astigmatism. If the pterygium starts to grow over the cornea, it can damage vision and may need to be surgically removed. Because pterygia are the result of extended UV exposure, it is entirely preventable.
Make an appointment to speak with your eye care professional about the various UV protection choices, including fixed tint sunglasses, adaptive lenses and polarized lenses.