You must be aware of the potential dangers of harmful UV rays on your skin. But are you aware of the fact that UV rays are equally damaging for your eyes and can cost your vision? Scared, right? Or course we do not want to scare you but wants to share the secrets of protecting your eyes from these harmful rays.
But before we look deeper into the ways UV rays harm your eyes and the remedy, let’s understand what exactly UV radiations are.
All about UV Rays
The Ultraviolet Radiations (UV rays) are a type of electromagnetic radiation and these have higher energy than visible light. UV rays may also come from artificial light sources such welding torches and tanning beds but the sun is the main source of UV rays.[source: https://www.cancer.org/cancer/cancer-causes/radiation-exposure/uv-radiation/uv-radiation-what-is-uv.html]
Experts have divided UV rays according to their wavelength. The shorter the wavelength, the more harmful it is. The classification of UV rays is as follows:
1. UVA Rays
This is the weakest of all UV rays as this ray is closer to the visible light spectrum. This ray cannot pass through your skin but can definitely penetrate your Cornea and reach the lens and the Retina of your eyes. If you are exposed to sunlight for long and without any kind of eye protection then, in the long run this might cause certain types of cataracts. UVA rays are the prime culprit behind Macular Degeneration.[source: http://www.who.int/uv/faq/whatisuv/en/index2.html]
2. UVB Rays
This is a medium-wavelength radiation and can penetrate your skin surface to a certain extent (overexposure to UVB rays give you a sun tan). UVB rays cause pingueculae and pterygia. These are growths on the eye’s surface and can distort your vision and cause other corneal problems. UVB rays also cause a painful eye condition called “Photokeratitis.” Also known as “Snow Blindness,” this is the inflammation of your Cornea and in severe cases may cause temporary vision loss that may last up to 24-48 hours. Since the Cornea absorbs 100% UVB rays, these rays do not cause macular degeneration or cataract (these two are linked with UVA rays).[source: http://www.allaboutvision.com/sunglasses/spf.htm] Although UVB rays cannot filter completely through the earth’s atmosphere but still, a certain amount of these rays reach the earth’s surface.
3. UVC Rays
This ray is the most harmful of the rest of the two. This has the shortest wavelength and is most damaging. Luckily, the Ozone layer completely filters it and UVC rays cannot reach the earth’s surface.[source: http://www.who.int/uv/faq/whatisuv/en/index2.html]
What Increases your risk of UV Exposure?
While any person who spends too much time out in the sun is at greater risk of UV ray damage but there are certain factors that determine the risks of eye damage from UV rays. These are:
- Your Geographic Location: UV rays are also strong in tropical regions near the equator.
- Altitude: UV rays are pretty strong in higher altitude so if you are on a vacation to any hilly area or live there, your eyes are at risk of damage.
- The time of the Day: When the sun is high in the sky, typically between 10 AM to 2 PM, the risk of damage is greater.
- Open spaces: Levels of UV rays are higher in open spaces and in places with highly reflective surfaces such as sand and snow increases the chances of eye damage from UV rays.
- Medicines: Certain medication such as sulfa drugs, tetracycline, diuretics, and birth control pills increase your body’s sensitivity to UV rays.
UV rays and Eye Damage
UV rays can cause serious eye damages. This includes:
- Macular Degeneration: UV rays cause macular degeneration. This is a condition where the central part of your Retina called Macula is damaged. This blurs your vision, makes it distorted and also results in the development of a blind spot in your field of vision.
- Cataract: Overexposure to UV rays, especially UV-B rays cause certain kind of cataracts. This is a condition where the natural lens of your eyes gets clouded.
- Pterygium: This is a growth on your eye that first appears on the white of the eye and may also develop in the cornea. Eventually, the growth blocks your vision. People who stay outside for long hours are particularly at risk.
- Skin Cancer: Prolonged UV exposure may result in skin cancer around the eyelids.
- Corneal Sunburn: Also known as photokeratitis, this condition is often caused by high intensity but short-term exposure to UV-B rays. Spending long hours at the beach or in the snow without proper eye protection can cause photokeratitis. This can be painful and may cause temporary vision loss.
Tips for Protecting Your Eyes
Follow these tips to keep your eyes safe in the sun:
- If you think that sun rays are only harmful during summers then you are wrong. Sun rays can damage your eyes throughout the year. So, wear UV-blocking sunglasses every time you go out in the sun. Get sunglasses that block 100% UVA and UVB rays. Use broad-brimmed hats when outside. This also prevents sun damage to your eyes.
- UV rays can damage your eyes even on a cloudy day. Clouds can block only visible light but UV radiations can easily penetrate the clouds. So, do not be fooled by the clouds.
- Avoid looking at the sun directly even during the eclipse even while wearing a sunglass. This may cause solar retinopathy, a condition where solar radiation damages your retina.
- Kids and older family members are also at risk. Protect their eyes as well. Make them wear UV protected sunglasses and hats when they go out. Use wraparound sunglasses for complete eye protection.
Next time when you are going out in the sun, do not forget to wear protective eye gear. And in case you have any kind of eye problem, simply get in touch with the experts at Disha Eye Hospital.