Studies show that long-term exposure to bright sunlight may increase the risk of cataracts and growths on the eye, including cancer. UV rays reflected off sand and water can cause eyes to sunburn, potentially resulting in temporary blindness in just a few hours. In support of July being UV Safety Month, Advanced Eyecare Optometry and the American Academy of Ophthalmology reminds the public of the importance of shielding eyes from the sun’s harmful rays with 100% UV-blocking sunglasses and broad-brimmed hats.
Our sun supports life on our planet, but its life-giving rays also pose many dangers. The sun’s primary danger is in the form of ultraviolet (UV) radiation. Artificial sources, like welding machines, tanning beds and lasers, can also produce UV radiation.
Most people are aware of how harmful UV radiation is to the skin. However, many may not realize that UV radiation can harm the eyes, and other components of solar radiation can also affect vision.
There are three types of UV radiation. UV-C is absorbed by the ozone layer and does not present any threat. However, UV-A and UV-B radiation can have long- and short-term negative effects on the eyes and vision.
If your eyes are exposed to excessive amounts of UV radiation over a short period of time, you will likely experience photokeratitis. Like a “sunburn of the eye,” photokeratitis can be painful. Its symptoms include red eyes, a foreign body sensation or gritty feeling in the eyes, extreme sensitivity to light and excessive tearing. Fortunately, these symptoms are usually temporary and rarely cause permanent damage to the eyes.
The longer the eyes are exposed to solar radiation, the greater the risk of developing cataracts or macular degeneration later in life. It is not clear how much exposure to solar radiation will cause damage. Therefore, whenever you spend time outdoors, wear quality sunglasses that offer UV protection and a hat or cap with a wide brim. Also, certain contact lenses can provide additional UV protection.
Provide adequate protection for your eyes! Look for sunglasses that:
- block out 99 to 100 percent of both UV-A and UV-B radiation;
- screen out 75 to 90 percent of visible light;
- have lenses that are perfectly matched in color and free of distortion and imperfection; and
- have lenses that are gray for proper color recognition.
If you participate in potentially eye-hazardous outdoor work or sports, your sunglass lenses should be made from polycarbonate or Trivex® material. These lenses provide the most impact resistance.
If you spend a lot of time outdoors in bright sunlight, consider wearing wraparound frames for additional protection from the harmful solar radiation.
Don’t forget protection for children and teenagers. They typically spend more time in the sun than adults.
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Image by Jill Wellington from Pixabay