Many people are aware of the premature aging effects on the skin from ultraviolet (UV) radiation, but did you know that UV light can also damage your eyes and vision significantly?
Acute effects of excessive UV exposure to the eyes can lead to a photokeratitis of the cornea commonly referred to as “welder's flash” if due to an artificial UV source or “snow blindness” if caused by indirect sunlight reflected off shiny surfaces like snow or ice. Staring at the sun or solar eclipses can lead to a “burn” of the retina (located in the back of the eye that processes light) called solar retinopathy. Severe solar retinopathy will permanently damage a patient’s central vision. Do not look directly at the sun.
Long term exposure to UV radiation from the sun is a common cause of cataracts, which is the clouding of the natural lens in your eye. Patients with significant cataracts will report blurry vision and increase in glare. Up to 10% of all skin cancers occur on the eyelids, of which basal cell carcinoma is the most common type. A pinguecula is a yellowish, slightly raised thickening of the conjunctiva overlying the white part of the eye (sclera). A pterygium is an elevated, wedged-shaped growth of the conjunctiva that extends onto the cornea. Both conditions can make the eyes look red and inflamed.
Whether the source is from the sun or tanning beds, UV radiation can harm your eyes in many ways. See your optometrist yearly for an eye exam to learn more on UV effects and how to protect your eyes for a safe, healthy summer and yearlong!