The Affect of UV Rays on Your Eyes – How to Prevent

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By Dr. Tejas D. Shah, Ophthalmology

UV rays are of two types-UV-A and UV-B. Exposure to any of these UV rays can lead to eye problems.

UV-A hurts central vision. Central vision is when the light entering your eyes is changed into nerve signals, by the cells which tells your brain what you are seeing. This damages a section of the retina called the macula.

Whereas UV-B is absorbed by the lens and the cornea which is in the front of your eyes. In general, UV-B rays are more harmful than UV-A rays.

Here are some eye problems caused by UV rays-

i. Macular degeneration- this disease causes loss of vision

ii. Cataract- the natural lens in the eye clouds over causing partial or impartial vision loss

iii. Pterygium- benign growth in the eye that blocks vision

iv. Skin cancer- unusual skin cell growth

v. Corneal sunburn- the surface of the eye gets sunburnt causing temporary loss of vision

Who Is at Risk?

Everyone (including children) is at risk for eye damage from UV radiation that can lead to vision loss. Any factor that increases the amount of time you spend in the sun will increase your risk. If you answer yes to more than one of these questions, you may be at higher risk of UV radiation damage to your eyes:

  1. Do you spend long hours in the sun?(Skiing, mountain climbing, swimming, at the beach, etc.)
  2. Do you use a sunlamp, tanning bed or booth?
  3. Do you live in the mountains or the US Sunbelt?
  4. Have you had cataract surgery (in one or both eyes) or do you have a retinal disorder?
  5. Are you on certain medicines, such as tetracycline, sulfa drugs, birth control pills, diuretics and tranquilizers (that increase the eye’s sensitivity to light)?
  6. Are you a welder, medical technologist or do you work in the graphic arts or in the manufacturing of electronic circuit boards?

To prevent your eyes from getting damaged, you can take the following precautions-

i. Wear sunglasses that block 99-100% of UV rays.

ii. Wear a hat that has a brim of 3 inches all around.

iii. Hats and sunglasses don’t cover the whole face, so don’t forget to apply sunscreen to prevent skin cancer.

iv. Finally, if possible, stay under a shade between ten in the morning to four in the evening.

If you spend a lot of time outdoors in bright sunlight, wrap around frames can provide additional protection from the harmful solar radiation. Lastly, don’t forget about protection for your children and teenagers, as they typically spend more time in the sun than adults.