Protecting Your Eyes from UV Damage

Posted By Key-Whitman Eye Center || 24-Jun-2014

UVsmallExposure 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 more serious eye conditions:

  • 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.

Categories: Eye Care Tips, Eye Health
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