How Can the Sun Damage Eyes?

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sun damage eyes

Eyes are one of the most complicated and sensitive organs in our bodies commanding great care along with the utmost respect and appreciation. Many of us have heard of UV or ultraviolet light, however how many actually know what it is and dangers it poses? Let's look into how UV exposure can cause sun damage to the eyes, the different ultraviolet rays that exist, and how we can properly protect ourselves against them.

Ultraviolet Rays are categorized in three main categories: consisting of UVA, UVB, and UVC. Each of these categories has different levels of intensity and impact on eyes, with UVC being the most damaging. Luckily the earth's atmosphere protects us from these harmful rays by absorbing them and preventing their dangerous rays from reaching us. The remaining two types of UV rays are able to breach our atmosphere and reach us. The UVA rays are mostly absorbed by tissue surrounding the vital parts of the eye therefore limiting the concentration of ultraviolet rays that actually reach the retina. The rays that threatens us the most is UVB. These rays do reach the retina and can cause medical conditions such as cancer and cataracts if the proper precautions are not taken. In fact, according to the American Academy of Ophthalmology, ophthalmologists warn that too much exposure to UV light can damage the eyes and increase the risk of eye disease. If exposed for too long ultraviolet rays can damage the eye's photoreceptor cells, which are the cells sensitive to light. The net result is a potential degradation of one's vision. Experts are still uncertain about the exact amount of damage that UV rays cause to the eye over time, nevertheless, studies have illustrated that the effects of the damage are cumulative and can express themselves in the most unpredictable way.

In order to reduce the risk of experiencing sun related eye damage it is critical to know how to properly protect yourself from the continuous and ubiquitous assault by these rays. The first step in applying proper protection is to realize that these rays are not just a threat from above, in fact all objects around us can reflect these rays. For instance, snow can reflect as much as 80 percent of UV rays, which means UV rays are not only present when it is sunny at the beach, and are not limited by season or location.

Here is a list of precautions you can take to better protect yourself from these dangerous rays.

  • Wear contact lenses that offer UV blocking attributes such as the Acuvue Oasys contact lens brand and the 1-Day TruEyebrand. At the time of this article all of these brands offered the highest level of UV blocking.
  • Wear UV blocking sunglasses.
  • Wear broad-brimmed hats.
  • Never look directly at the sun. Doing so can cause severe damage to your retina resulting in solar retinopathy.
  • Remain cautious on cloudy days; UV rays are capable of passing through thin clouds and still present danger.

We all hope that our eyes will remain healthy throughout the course of our lives. This means that we need to do our part to ensure that we care for them in a thoughtful manner. Understanding the risks mentioned above while taking the proper precautions to protect ourselves from UV exposure can help limit the risk of "sun damaged eyes" and help avoid any future problematic disorders.

American Academy of Ophthalmology


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