What is “ultraviolet”? UV light is a type of electromagnetic radiation that is invisible to humans. When exposed to high amounts, UV can cause damage to living tissue, including your eyes.
Fun fact: certain bugs and insects can see UV rays, so bug zappers utilize UV light to lure them into a trap!
How does this affect my eyes? There are many conditions that can be caused by or exacerbated by exposure to UV light.
- UV keratitis or photokeratitis: essentially a “sunburn” to your eye, it can be very painful, cause redness, excessive tearing, photosensitivity, and a foreign body sensation.
- Cataracts: exposure to UV light can exacerbate the growth of cataracts, resulting in decreased vision, worsening nighttime vision, and a sooner need for cataract surgery
- Age-related Macular Degeneration (ARMD): a leading cause of blindness in the western world, continuous exposure to UV radiation can cause or exacerbate ARMD
- Ocular melanoma (eye cancer): the pigmented parts of your eye can develop cancer from exposure to UV light
- Pinguecula: UV light can damage the sclera (the white parts of your eye) and cause growths, which overtime can progress and cause changes to your vision
How can I prevent this? Wearing UV protection, such as sunglasses and hats with brims.
- All glasses made at Family Vision Center come with UV protection
- Majority of sunglasses provide some form of UV protection – aim for 100% UV protection of both UV-A and UV-B
- Larger lens and wrap around frames provide more UV protection for your eyes
- Wearing hats with wide brims can help decrease the amount of UV exposure
- Avoid outdoor activities between 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. when sunlight is the strongest.
There are also indoor risks for UV damage! Watch out for artificial sources of UV light, including welding machines, tanning beds, and lasers. If you work in an environment that involves UV light, make sure you’re wearing appropriate eyewear to protect yourself.
Q: What happens if I look at the sun?
A: Solar retinopathy – irreversible damage to the eyes. You could potentially lose your central vision and see dark spots. Avoid looking directly at the sun!
Q: Is there a certain style of sunglasses that I should be looking for?
A: The bigger the better! Having a larger lens provides more coverage against UV protection. Wrap-around frames are also a great idea for more coverage.