The sun releases energy or radiation in three forms – Visible Sunlight, Heat, and Ultraviolet. Ultraviolet, or UV rays are invisible to the eye and cause sunburn. While we all try to protect our skin from harmful UV rays, many of us forget that those same rays can damage our eyes.
UV-A and UV-B
UV rays come in two forms – UV-A and UV-B. Over time each of these can contribute to or cause specific eye problems. UV-A rays can affect your central vision by damaging the macula which is a part of the retina. UV-B rays are absorbed by the front of the eye and can harm the cornea and lens if your eyes are not protected.
UV Rays Can Cause:
- Macular Degeneration – A leading cause of vision loss in adults is caused by UV rays.
- Cataracts – Clouding of the eye’s natural lens, the part that focuses visible light, can occur from UV rays, especially UV-B rays.
- Pterygium – UV related growth that typically begins on the white of the eye. The growth may end up blocking a person’s vision.
- Skin Cancer – While UV rays can cause skin cancer, they can also cause skin cancer around and on the eyelids.
- Corneal Sunburn – Result of high short term exposure to UV-B rays. It is also known as photokeratitis and can cause temporary vision loss. Long hours at the beach without proper protection is a typical cause.
How to Prevent Problems:
- Never look directly at the sun.
- Wear Sunglasses – Make sure your sunglasses are grey in tone to prevent color distortion and to block 99-100% of UV rays and 75-90% of visible light. Sunglasses should cover eyes, eyelids and surrounding areas. Wrap around styles are offered for those who want more protection or cannot find the right frames.
- Top it off – Wearing a hat with a 3” rim can block 50% of UV-B rays
- Get Shady – Stay in the shade when the sun is at its brightest which is usually between 10am and 4pm.