Virtually everyone is exposed to UV rays on a daily basis. However, the dangers of years of exposure to these harsh rays are not often considered, to a point where the majority of people barely take enough action to protect their eyes, even if they're planning to be out in the sun for an extended period of time. UV overexposure is dangerous and irreversible, and may also cause several serious, sight-stealing diseases later on in life. Therefore, ongoing protection from these rays is a must for everyone.
UV radiation, originating mostly from the sun, consists of 2 types of damaging rays: UV-A and UV-B. Despite the fact that only small measures of UVA and UVB light reach the inner eye, the eye cells are incredibly susceptible to the damaging effects of their rays. Even in the short term, small amounts of exposure may result in sunburnt eyes, also known as photokeratitis. When the cornea receives UVB rays, the cells that make up its exterior are destroyed, which can be expressed as blurred vision, pain or even temporary blindness. UVA rays actually permeate the eye much deeper, which can cause damage to the retina. Out of the 20 million people with cataracts, about 20 percent of cases are due to extended exposure to UV rays.
One of the best ways to protect your eyes from UV rays is with high quality sunglasses. Be sure that your sunglasses or prescription glasses block 100 percent of UVA and UVB rays. An unsatisfactory pair of sunglasses can sometimes be even worse than having nothing at all. Consider this: if sunglasses don't offer any UV protection, you're actually being exposed to more UV rays. Such sunglasses will block some of the visible light, which causes the pupils to open and allow more light in. And this means that even more UV will reach your retina. Always check to make sure your sunglasses offer maximum protection against UV.
Wearing a large hat or cap can also block about half of UV rays. These hats may also limit UV rays that reach the eyes from above or around glasses.
Extended exposure to UV rays can also lead to an abnormal tissue growth on the eye, known as pterygium. This is a slim, wedge-shaped tissue growth with blood vessels that appear over the white part on the surface of the eye. In addition to being visually unsightly, a pterygium can cause discomfort, and can even change the contour of the eyeball, which will cause astigmatism. If the pterygium starts to grow over the cornea, it can damage vision and may require surgery. Because pterygia are the result of long-term UV exposure, it can be avoided with proper UV protection.
Make an appointment to speak with your optometrist about all of your UV protection options, which include adaptive photochromic lenses, polarized lenses and fixed tint sunglasses.