Everyone is regularly exposed to UV rays. However, the potential dangers of long-term exposure to these harmful rays aren't really thought through, and most people take little action to guard their eyes, even when they're expecting to be outside for long periods of time. Overexposure to UV is unsafe and irreversible, and may result in a number of serious, sight-stealing diseases later on in life. And so, continuing protection from these rays is vital for everyone.
There are two types of UV rays: UVA and UVB, and both are harmful. Despite the fact that only small amounts of UVA and UVB light hit the inner eye, the ocular cells are extremely susceptible to the harmful effects of their rays. Small amounts of this kind of exposure may lead to sunburnt eyes, often referred to as photokeratitis. When UVB rays enter the cornea, the surrounding cells are significantly damaged, and this can be expressed as blurred vision, pain or temporary blindness. UVA rays actually permeate the eye much deeper, causing harm to the retina. After several years, being exposed to UV rays may lead to significant and lasting damage to the eyes.
One of the best ways to protect your eyes from UV rays is through the use of quality sunglasses. Be sure that your sunglasses or prescription glasses block both UVA and UVB rays completely. An inadequate pair of sunglasses can actually be even worse than using nothing at all. Consider this: when your sunglasses don't offer any protection against UV, it means you're actually increasing your exposure to UV rays. The inadequate sunglasses generally block some of the light, forcing your iris to open and let even more light in. This means that even more UV will hit your retina. It's important to check that your sunglasses give maximum protection against UV.
Extended 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 of the eye's surface. In addition to being visually unappealing, a pterygium can irritate the eye, and can even alter the shape of the eyeball, which will cause astigmatism. If the pterygium starts to grow over the cornea, it can blur or obstruct vision and may need to be surgically removed. Because pterygia are caused by long-term UV exposure and windy conditions, it is completely avoidable.
Make an appointment to speak with your eye care professional about all the different UV protection options, which include fixed tint sunglasses, adaptive lenses and polarized lenses.