It is officially summer, and we are all looking forward to spending more time outside during these sunny long days. During the summer months, it is important to remember to protect ourselves from the potentially dangerous effects of UV light. Just like sunscreen should be worn to protect our skin from UV damage, sunglasses should be worn to prevent damage to our eyes from overexposure to UV light. Sunlight has the potential to seriously damage our eyes, and proper UV protection is important in protecting ocular health. Continue reading to learn more about protecting your eyes from harmful UV rays.
How Does UV Light Affect Our Eyes?
Overexposure to UV light can adversely affect many aspect of ocular health, from the front to the back of the eye. While everyone knows that staring at the sun can cause permanent blindness, the risks of UV damage go beyond that. Long-term exposure to high amounts of UV light can affect the front surface of the eye by causing an abnormal overgrowth of fibrous tissue. This results in a fleshy-looking bump on the front of the eye, known as a pinguecula or a pterygium. These bumps made of excess tissue are not necessarily painful, but many affected people find their appearance irritating. In some unfortunate cases, the overgrowth can reach the cornea of the eye and may even negatively affect vision. Beyond the front surface of the eye, excessive exposure to sunlight has been associated with a quicker development of cataracts. These early onset cataracts are due to the fact that high levels of UV light increase the number of free radicals in the eye, which is a main cause of cataract formation. UV damage may even pose a significant threat to retinal health, as some studies have suggested it can increase the risk of development of macular degeneration.
Sunglasses and UV Protection
Regularly wearing sunglasses when you are outside is an easy and effective method of protecting your eyes from UV damage. However, there are things to keep in mind when choosing your sunglasses in order to ensure maximum protection. Your sunglass lenses should effectively block out at least 95% of UVA/UVB lights in order to safeguard your eyes from the sun’s damaging rays. Unfortunately, not all UV-blocking lenses are created equally, and some low quality sunglasses block out less than 50% of these damaging light rays. An optician will likely be able to measure your lenses and determine their UV-blocking abilities. Many people choose polarized lenses in their sunglasses; these premium lenses block glare from water and other reflective surfaces better than regular sunglasses and are useful for many outdoor water activities.
Sunglasses do more than protect the ocular tissue from UV damage, they also protect the skin around the eyes from the potentially harmful radiation. Larger sunglasses are more effective in blocking UV rays and keeping more skin covered and protected. Wide-brimmed hats should also be considered to further protect your eyes and skin from UV damage. Hats may be particularly useful in protecting the eyes of young children who are resistant to wearing sunglasses.