It's a fact that basically everybody is exposed to UV rays. But the risks related to many years of exposure to these harmful rays aren't really considered, and the majority of people take little action to guard their eyes, even if they're expecting to be exposed to the sun for long periods of time. UV overexposure is dangerous and irreversible, and can also cause several severe, vision-stealing conditions in older age. Therefore, ongoing protection from UV rays is vital for everyone.
UV radiation, which originates mostly from the sun, consists of 2 types of damaging rays: UVA and UVB. Despite the fact that only minimal amounts of UVA and UVB light reach the inner eye, the ocular tissue is very susceptible to the harmful effects of their rays. Even in the short term, small amounts of exposure can cause sunburn of the eye, or photokeratitis. When UVB rays enter the cornea, the cells that make up its exterior are destroyed, which can cause pain, blurred vision or in serious cases, temporary blindness. UVA rays actually permeate the eye much deeper, causing harm to the retina. Out of the 20 million people with cataracts, about 20 percent of cases are due to extended exposure to UV rays.
A really great way to protect your eyes from UV rays is with quality sunglasses. Check that your sunglasses or prescription glasses block 100 percent of UVA and UVB rays. Wearing an unsatisfactory pair of sunglasses can sometimes be even worse than having no sunglasses at all. Consider this: when your sunglasses don't give you any protection against UV, it means you're actually getting more UV rays. Such sunglasses generally reduce the light, forcing your iris to open and let more light in. This means that even more UV will hit your retina. Always check to make sure your sunglasses provide effective protection against UV.
Years of exposure to UV rays can also result in an abnormal tissue growth on the eye, which is called 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 unsightly, a pterygium can irritate the eye, and can even alter the shape of the eyeball, causing astigmatism. If the pterygium begins to grow over the cornea, it can damage vision and may require surgery. Because pterygia are caused by long-term UV exposure and windy conditions, it's totally preventable.
Speak to your eye care professional about all of your UV protection options, which include fixed tint sunglasses, adaptive lenses and polarized lenses.