Ultraviolet Radiation (UV) and Your Eyes

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!

UV Rays Can Seriously Damage Your Eyes, Even In the Winter

Everyone knows that UV radiation causes skin damage.  But those same rays can cause cataracts, cancer of the eyelids, benign growths on the eye’s surface, and snow blindness.

Beach dwellers and skiers are at particular risk.  UV radiation reflects off surfaces such as snow, water, and white sand.  The risk of ocular damage from UV radiation is particularly high on the beach, the waves, and at the ski slopes.

People need to wear sunglasses outdoors when working, driving, playing sports, or running errands.  At a minimum, lenses should:

  • Block at least 99% of both UV-A and UV-B radiation.
  • Screen out 75% to 90% of visible light.
  • Be gray for proper color recognition and free of distortion and imperfection.

Buying Sunglasses — What to Look for:

  • Check lenses to be sure the tint is uniform
  • Ensure that lenses are distortion free.
  • Try them on in front of a mirror. If you can see your eyes easily through the lenses, they probably don’t block enough light. Note: this test doesn’t apply to photo chromic (light-sensitive) lenses.

Yearly Eye Exams Can Detect Serious Health Problems

Regular, comprehensive eye exams are not just for eye sight correction.  They can detect symptoms that a regular doctor visit won’t catch and may uncover serious medical conditions before other symptoms manifest.

The eyes are the only place where a doctor can see blood vessels without an invasive procedure.  Inflammation, small blood clots or swelling within the retina are signs of serious health problems that can be easily observed in an eye exam.  In fact, eye doctors routinely detect hypertension, stroke, cardiovascular disease, multiple sclerosis and diabetes in their early stages.  On rare occasions, brain tumors have even been diagnosed through routine eye dilation.

Prevention and early detection are the best medicine so be sure to get your eye examined on a regular basis.