Every day of the year we are exposed to ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun. This is true whether it is winter or summer or sunny or cloudy outside. Since UV radiation is invisible to the eye, we often don’t realize how much exposure we are getting.
Most people are aware that the sun can cause burning, wrinkling and other damage to the skin over time. But the sun can be just as damaging to the eyes. Too much unprotected exposure to UV radiation can cause “photokeratitis” – a sunburn of the eye. This causes eye redness, sensitivity to light and tearfulness. Fortunately, the symptoms of photokeratitis usually don’t last long.
However, long periods of exposure to UV radiation can often cause permanent damage to the eye. UV exposure can lead to cataracts (a clouding of the lens of the eye) and also damage the retina. Both conditions can seriously impair your vision.
Adults and children both need protection from UV rays
Adults and children alike are subject to the damaging effects of UV rays. Fortunately, this damage can be prevented by wearing sunglasses that provide UV eye protection. Children spend more of their time outdoors and are therefore more susceptible to the harmful affects of UV rays. The risk for children is also higher because the lens in their eye doesn’t block as much UV light as adults. For this reason, children should wear sunglasses with 100% UV protection when they are playing outdoors.
Adults should remember that certain medications, such as birth control pills, sulfa drugs, diuretics and tranquilizers can increase your increase your risk of eye disease or impairment. Excessive exposure to UV rays can cause macular degeneration, cataracts and cancer among other diseases.
The damage from harmful UV radiation is cumulative over a person’s lifetime. Because the damage is cumulative, it is important to protect your eyes every day in all light conditions.
Sunglasses – the smart way to protect your eyes
Fortunately, protecting yourself and your children from the harmful effects of UV rays is easy. Wearing sunglasses with 100% UV protection is the best way to shield your eyes from the sun as well as dust and other particles that can irritate the eyes. Your Reliant Medical Group optician can assist you in finding a pair of sunglasses (with or without a prescription) that suit your needs and your lifestyle. Sunglass lenses should be gray, green or brown and the larger the lenses the better the protection. Wraparound sunglasses provide an extra measure of protection. Contact lens wearers can get lenses that filter out a majority of UV radiation. These contact lenses should not be used in place of sunglasses, but do help screen out UV radiation that comes in around the tops and sides of glasses. Remember that to ensure optimum protection, sunglasses should always block 100% of ultraviolet rays. Buying sunglasses that don’t offer 100% UV protection is risky since no matter how dark the lens, you cannot be assured that enough UV radiation is being stopped to offer proper protection.
Photochromic lenses offer versatile everyday protection
Another way to help protect your eyes from UV rays is to wear photochromic lenses, which are eyeglasses that darken when exposed to UV light. Photochromics are a good choice for an everyday lens because they automatically protect against UV rays. However, not all photochromic lenses block 100% of UV radiation so be sure that you purchase ones that do safely protect your eyes.