Everyone is regularly exposed to UV rays. But the potential dangers related to long-term exposure to these harmful rays aren't really thought through, and the majority of people take little action to protect their eyes, even when they're expecting to be outside for many hours. Overexposure to UV is dangerous and irreversible, and can also result in a number of serious, vision-stealing conditions in older age. This means that ongoing protection from UV rays is extremely important.
UV radiation, which comes mostly from the sun, consists of two types of harmful rays: UV-A and UV-B. Despite the fact that only small amounts of UVA and UVB light reach the inner eye, the ocular cells are very receptive to the damaging effects of their rays. Intense, short-term of exposure can easily lead to sunburn of the eye, often referred to as photokeratitis. When UVB rays are absorbed by the cornea, the cells that make up its exterior are significantly damaged, which can cause blurred vision, pain or temporary blindness. UVA rays can actually enter the eye more deeply, which harms to the retina.
A really great way to shield your eyes from UV rays is through the use of good sunglasses. Check that your sunglasses or regular eyewear block 100 percent of UVA and UVB rays. Wearing an inadequate pair of sunglasses can be more harmful than using no sun protection at all. Consider this: when your sunglasses don't give you any protection against UV, you're actually increasing your exposure to UV rays. Sunglasses that are inadequate tend to block some of the light, causing the iris to open and allow even more light in. And this means that even more UV will reach the retina. Always check to make sure your sunglasses give maximum UV protection.
Wearing a broad brimmed sunhat or baseball cap can also block about half of UV rays. These hats may also reduce UV rays that reach the eyes from above or around glasses.
Long-term exposure to UV rays can also cause an abnormal tissue growth on the eye, known as pterygium. This is a slim, wedge-shaped tissue growth with blood vessels that spread over the white part on the surface of the eye. In addition to being aesthetically unappealing, a pterygium can cause discomfort, and can even affect the contour of the eyeball, which leads to astigmatism. If the pterygium begins to grow over the cornea, it can blur or obstruct vision and may require surgery. Because pterygia are caused by extended UV exposure and windy conditions, it's entirely avoidable.
Speak to your optometrist about the various UV protection options, including adaptive lenses, polarized lenses and fixed tint sunglasses.