UV and Your Eyes

Mountain View Eye Center’s Weekly Blog

UV and Your Eyes

Sunglasses with sun in background

UV rays are present year round, however, as we approach summer and our days get longer, we are exposed to increasing amounts of UV radiation. You are used to wearing sunscreen to protect your skin from UV damage, but have you thought about how UV affects your eyes? In this blog, we’ll discuss the dangers of UV and what you should do to protect yourself.

There are three types of UV radiation: UVA, UVB and UVC. UVC is completely absorbed by the atmosphere, but UVA and UVB reach our skin and eyes, and can lead to serious and permanent damage. UV is present anytime the sun is up, even on overcast days, and up to 100% of UV rays can be reflected off of water. Other factors, such as proximity to the equator and altitude, can affect UV exposure.

The most common damage caused by UV radiation is a sunburn. If exposed to UV for too long, your skin will burn, which can lead to skin cancer. And just like the skin, the eyes are susceptible to sunburns, or photokeratitis. Photokeratits is a painful condition that causes redness, watering, and sensitivity to light.

Cataracts occur when the crystalline lens of the eye becomes cloudy. This causes vision to become blurry, similar to looking through a cloudy window. While most people will develop cataracts as a normal part of the aging process, excessive exposure to sunlight will cause cataracts to develop sooner. The only treatment for cataracts is surgery.

Pterygium is a growth of fleshy tissue that starts on the white part of the eye and often grows onto the cornea, causing distortion in your vision. The only treatment for pterygium is surgery, and the growth will often return after removal.

Macular Degeneration:
Macular Degeneration is a slowly progressing degenerative disease. It is caused when the cells of the macula, the part of our retina responsible for fine, detailed vision, begin to break down. Macular Degeneration may start with symptoms such as blurry or distorted vision, and may eventually lead to complete loss of central vision. The treatment for some types of Macular Degeneration includes injections of medication into the eye.

It is clear that protecting your eyes is essential to healthy vision. There are several ways that you can keep your eyes safe.

Wear sunglasses. Sunglasses that block 100% of UV are key to keeping your eyes healthy. Because UV can be present even on days when the sun is not shining, it is essential to wear sunglasses outdoors whenever possible. But not all sunglasses are the same. Many cheap sunglasses are not regulated to ensure that they block UV. These lenses may actually cause more damage, as the pupil will dilate behind a dark lens, allowing more UV to enter the back of the eye. Make sure that the sunglasses you wear are labeled, or purchase your sunglasses from a reputable retailer. The sunglasses sold at Mountain View Optical all block 100% of UV rays.
Wear glasses that block UV. You may not know that your clear glasses can also block UV rays. Speak with your optician to ensure that your lenses are made from a UV blocking material, or are coated with a UV blocking layer. You can also choose to wear photochromic lenses that turn dark outside, and block 100% of UV both indoors and out. For more information about lens options, read our blog The Eyewear Guide.
Wear a hat. Wearing a wide-brimmed hat outdoors will help to minimize the amount of UV exposure to the face and eyes. This keeps your eyes safe, and also helps to prevent skin damage, such as wrinkles.

UV damage is cumulative, which means that these same tools should also be given to children. Young eyes are more susceptible to UV damage, and prevention is key when it comes to UV related eye diseases.

We hope you find this information helpful. To speak with an optician about UV blocking eyewear, call (907) 328-2920. You can read all of our blog posts at www.mountainvieweyes.com. Thank you for taking the time to read our blog, and stay tuned for more!

Written by Gina Stafford, COA, LDO, ABOC 05/2020

Posted in: Alaska Ophthalmology, Cataract, Eye Doctor in Alaska, Eye Health Guide, Eyes, Patient Education

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