As the sun ramps up for the summer, it’s time to take a closer look at how you’re protecting your eyes from ultraviolet (UV) damage. Since May is UV Awareness Month, Colorado Ophthalmology Associates offers these tips on avoiding UV eye damage and how to choose the best sunglasses to help protect your eyes.
What is UV Light?
Ultraviolet light rays are emitted from the sun and many of them are blocked by the earth’s atmosphere. Still, many come through. These rays are important since they help the skin in the creation of Vitamin D. However, there can be too much of a good thing. UV rays can damage the skin and the eyes over time. The short rays enter the eye and damage the macula of the retina, which is responsible for the center field of vision. Additionally, the cornea and lens can be damaged by UV rays.1
Eye Conditions Caused by UV Damage
Apart from skin cancer, which can even be located on eyelids and around the eyes, UV damage can cause a number of conditions.2 These conditions include:
- Corneal sunburn – overexposure to the sun hurts the eyes like a sunburn.
- Photokeratitis – temporary loss of vision due to corneal sunburn or from sun glancing off of water, snow or highly reflective surfaces.
- Pinguecula – irritating growth on the white of the eye that requires surgery to remove.
- Eye cancer – takes longer to develop but can culminate from years of UV ray abuse.
- Macular degeneration – develops from overexposure of UV light over time. Vision loss cannot be regained.
- Cataracts – UV rays contribute to the development of cataracts later in life. Surgery will likely be needed.
- Pterygium – growth on the eye, also called surfer’s eye. Requires surgery to remove.
Prevention of UV Damage to the Eyes
There are some simple steps to help protect your eyes against UV damage. Be especially vigilant at higher elevations and locations closer to the equator where UV rays are more intense.
Choose a wide-brimmed hat that will shadow your face from UV rays. Some rays are blocked by glass but others will go through glass, so don’t expect to be fully protected indoors.
Wear sunglasses every day, even on cloudy days. UV light will be present all the time. Make sure your children also wear UV-rated sunglasses.
Choose sunglasses that are rated at 99% and greater UVA and UVB protection.3 Look for sunglasses that cover a wide surface and even wrap around. Grey lenses offer the closest thing to true color perception.
Stop smoking or don’t start smoking. Smoking can speed up UV light damage to the eyes. Talk to your medical provider about getting help to stop smoking.
See your ophthalmologist regularly. To make sure your eyes are not being damaged by overexposure to UV rays, make sure you get regular check-ups.
Discuss with your ophthalmologist
To kick of the sunny season, call us today for an appointment and come to one of our two Colorado locations for a consultation. Our board-certified ophthalmologists are ready to evaluate your eyes for UV damage and to recommend the best eye protection to help prevent damage as you enjoy the benefits of being in the sun this season.