How UV Radiation Affects Your Eyes

By August 10, 2023Health Tips

We have talked about the effects of ultraviolet (UV) radiation on your skin. You may have also heard about UV radiation causing damage to your eyes. But are you protecting your eyes on a regular basis? Today, we will talk about the common eye problems that can be caused or worsened by UV radiation exposure and how you can protect your eyes from these conditions.

What are the harmful effects of UV light on the eyes?
How UV Radiation Affects Your EyesUV radiation contributes to the formation of free radicals, which can cause permanent damage to body tissues, including the eyes. Some of the common eye problems associated with UV exposure include:
  • Cataracts – Clouding of the lens of the eye, which can lead to blindness.
  • Retina degeneration – Breakdown of the back surface of the eye that is responsible for converting the light into neural signals and sending these signals to the brain, resulting in vision.
  • Macular degeneration – Breakdown of the part of the retina that gives the eye clear vision in the center of your visual field. Macular degeneration can lead to blindness.
  • Melanoma of the eye – Melanoma is a serious form of cancer. When melanoma occurs in the eye, it is usually in the middle layer of your eye, but can also develop on the eyelid, or on the surface of the eye.
  • Pterygium – A growth that begins in the white of the eye, which can grow to block your vision.
  • Sunburn of the cornea – A very painful condition.
  • Other skin cancers of the eyelids
How can you protect your eyes from the negative effects of UV radiation?
Although some conditions can be treated, such as surgery to remove cataracts, you may not be able to fix your eyes once they are damaged. But you can ensure that your eyes stay as healthy as possible by taking a few practical steps. Here are some tips to do just that:
Use protective eyeglasses:
  • Always use eye protection – In the summer at the beach or the lake, or in the snow in winter.
  • When buying a new pair of sunglasses, look for labels that indicate the glasses block 99-100% of UVA and UVB rays.
  • If you wear glasses full-time, consider “photochromic” lenses, also called transition lenses, which eliminate the need for a separate pair of prescription sunglasses. They always provide complete UVA and UVB protection, whether the lenses are clear or dark at the time.
  • Your glasses should reduce glare and not distort natural colors.
  • When sunlight hits water or snow, the reflection is stronger, making the risk for eye damage even greater. The more light your glasses block in this situation, the better.
Wear a wide-brimmed hat:
  • This can be especially helpful for children or others who aren’t used to wearing sunglasses.
  • A wide brim on a hat can block up to 50% of UV radiation.
  • It can also limit UV rays that might hit the eyes from above or around your glasses. Wear the hat in addition to the glasses when you can.
Avoid overexposure to the sun:
  • Stay out of the sun at peak hours for UVB rays.
  • Sit in the shade of a tree or use an umbrella at the beach, in addition to your sunglasses.
  • This is especially important for people who:
    • Have had eye surgery
    • Are taking certain prescription medications that may increase your eyes’ sensitivity to light.
What else should you do to keep your eyes healthy?
Pay attention to your eye health by seeing your eye doctor regularly, especially if you have any of the following symptoms:
  • Sensation of flashes or specks of dust in your vision
  • Poor or blurry vision
  • A growing dark spot on the eye
  • Loss of peripheral vision
  • A change in the shape of your pupil
If you have any questions about UV safety, please log into your account and send us your question. We are here to help.

Dr. Anita Bennett MD – Health Tip Content Editor

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