Exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation doesn’t just cause skin cancer—it
can also cause serious damage to your eyes. UV rays, whether from natural
sunlight or artificial sources like a tanning bed, can affect both surface
tissues and internal structures of the eye like the cornea and lens.
UV damage to the eyes
Short-term excessive UV exposure can burn the surface of the eye, much
like a sunburn. Long-term excessive UV exposure can cause a number of
Cataracts are a clouding of the lens of the eye. While often associated with age,
cataracts can also be caused by UV exposure.
Snow blindness is a temporary yet painful cornea burn that is often the result of a day
spent outside in the sun without protective sunglasses. Reflections of
the sun off snow, water and concrete as well as UV exposure in a tanning
bed can also cause snow blindness.
Pterygium is an abnormal growth in the corner of the eye. It is usually non-cancerous,
but can overgrow the cornea and block vision, requiring surgery for removal.
Basal cell carcinoma is the most common type of skin cancer affecting the eyelid and surrounding areas.
Protecting your eyes
Protecting your eyes from damage caused by UV exposure is simple. Here
are three tips to protect your eyes and prevent damage caused by the sun.
Wear sunglasses. Even when you are outside on a cloudy day, always wear
sunglasses that block 100 percent of UV-A and UV-B rays. Be sure your sunglasses
are not damaged and that they fit properly, shielding the eyes from most
angles. Also be sure your children have sunglasses to wear outside.
Wear a wide-brimmed hat. When worn in combination with sunglasses, you can get the greatest amount
of UV protection for your eyes.
Wear UV-blocking contacts. If you wear contact lenses, ask your eye doctor about contacts that block UV rays.
Pay attention to peak sun times. The sun’s UV rays are strongest between the hours of 10 a.m. and
2 p.m. It is best to avoid being outdoors during these hours. If you must
be outside during peak sun hours, always wear proper protection.
Sun damage has a cumulative effect on your eyes. While one day of exposure
to UV rays from the sun may not affect your vision, consistent sun exposure
without proper eye protection can have serious consequences over time. The
Key-Whitman Optical Center carries a variety of designer eyewear, including sunglasses to protect
your eyes from UV damage.