It's safe to assume that almost everybody is exposed to UV rays on a regular basis. But the possible risks related to many years of exposure to these harmful rays are rarely thought through, and most people barely take enough action to protect their eyes, even if they're planning on being out in the sun for many hours. Overexposure to UV is dangerous and irreversible, and can also cause several serious, sight-damaging diseases in older age. And so, continuing protection from these rays is extremely important.
There are two types of UV rays: UVA and UVB, and both are damaging. Even though only tiny measures of UVA and UVB light hit the inner eye, the ocular cells are incredibly vulnerable to the harmful effects of their rays. Intense, short-term of exposure can easily cause sunburn of the eye, also known as photokeratitis. When UVB rays enter the cornea, the surrounding cells are destroyed, which can be expressed as blurred vision, pain or temporary blindness. UVA rays actually enter the eye more deeply, which harms to the retina. After several years, UV rays can cause considerable damage to eye sight. Out of the 20 million people with cataracts, about 20 percent of cases are partly caused by extended exposure to UV rays.
One of the best ways to shield your eyes from UV rays is through the use of high quality sunglasses. Check that your sunglasses or prescription glasses block 100% of both UVA and UVB rays. Wearing an inadequate pair of sunglasses can be worse than using no sunglasses at all. Think about it this way: if your sunglasses don't give you any protection against UV, you are actually increasing your exposure to UV rays. Such sunglasses will block some of the light, causing the iris to open and let more light in. And this means that even more UV will be hitting the retina. It's important to check that your sunglasses give enough UV protection.
Extended exposure to UV rays can also lead to an abnormal tissue growth on the eye, known as pterygium. This is a narrow, wedge-shaped tissue growth with blood vessels that appear over the white part of the eye's surface. In addition to being cosmetically unsightly, a pterygium can cause discomfort, and can even alter the shape of the eyeball, causing astigmatism. If the pterygium starts to grow over the cornea, it can blur or obstruct vision and may result in surgery. Because pterygia are the result of extended UV exposure, it is entirely preventable.
Make an appointment to speak with your optometrist about the various UV protection choices, which include adaptive lenses, polarized lenses and fixed tint sunglasses.