Everyone is regularly exposed to UV rays. But the potential risks of many years of exposure to these unsafe rays are not often considered, and most people barely take enough action to guard their eyes, even when they're planning to be exposed to the sun for many hours. Overexposure to UV is unsafe and cannot be reversed, and may also lead to more than a few severe, vision-stealing conditions in older age. This means that ongoing protection from these rays is equally important for everybody.
UV radiation, which originates mostly from the sun, is made up of 2 types of harmful rays: UVA and UVB. Despite the fact that only small amounts of UVA and UVB light reach the inner eye, the eye tissue is very receptive to the damaging effects of their rays. Even in the short term, small amounts of exposure can lead to sunburnt eyes, often referred to as photokeratitis. When the cornea receives UVB rays, the surrounding cells are severely damaged, which can lead to pain, blurred vision or temporary blindness. UVA rays can actually enter the eye more deeply, which causes damage to the retina. Over a number of years, being exposed to UV rays may be responsible for significant damage to the eyes. Out of the 20 million people suffering from cataracts, an estimated 20 percent of cases are caused by long-term exposure to UV rays.
One of the best ways to shield your eyes from UV rays is by wearing good sunglasses. Ensure that your sunglasses or regular glasses block both UVA and UVB rays completely. Wearing an unsatisfactory pair of sunglasses can be worse than wearing nothing at all. Think about it this way: if sunglasses don't offer any UV protection, you're actually being exposed to more UV rays. Such sunglasses generally reduce the light, forcing your iris to open and allow even more light in. And this means that even more UV will reach your retina. It's important to check that your sunglasses offer effective UV protection.
Years of exposure to UV rays can also result in an abnormal tissue growth on the eye, which is called pterygium. This is a narrow, wedge-shaped tissue growth with blood vessels that grow over the white part on the surface of the eye. In addition to being cosmetically unsightly, a pterygium can irritate the eye, and can even alter the contour of the eyeball, which leads to astigmatism. If the pterygium starts to grow over the cornea, it can damage vision and may require surgery. Because pterygia are the result of extended UV exposure and windy conditions, it is totally avoidable.
Speak to your optometrist about all of your UV protection options, including fixed tint sunglasses, adaptive lenses and polarized lenses.