It's a fact: almost everybody is regularly exposed to UV rays. However, the potential dangers of long-term exposure to these harsh rays are rarely thought through, and the majority of people barely take enough action to shield their eyes, even if they're planning on being exposed to the sun for long periods of time. Overexposure to UV is dangerous and cannot be reversed, and can lead to several serious, sight-damaging diseases later on in life. Therefore, ongoing protection from UV rays is vital for everyone.
There are two types of UV rays: UV-A and UV-B, both of which are harmful. Although only minimal measures of UVA and UVB light reach the inner eye, the ocular cells are incredibly vulnerable 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 are absorbed by the cornea, the cells that make up its exterior are significantly damaged, and this can lead to blurred vision, pain or in serious cases, even temporary blindness. UVA rays actually permeate the eye much deeper, which harms to the retina. Over time, being exposed to UV rays can be responsible for substantial damage to the eyes.
A really great way to protect your eyes from UV rays is through the use of quality sunglasses. Ensure that your sunglasses or prescription eyewear block 100% of both UVA and UVB rays. An insufficient pair of sunglasses can actually be even worse than using no sunglasses at all. Think about it this way: when sunglasses offer no UV protection, 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. And this means that more UV will hit your retina. Always be sure that your sunglasses provide effective UV protection.
Going out in a broad brimmed hat or baseball cap can also protect you from roughly fifty percent of UV rays. These hats will also limit UV rays hitting your eyes from above or around glasses.
Years of exposure to UV rays can also lead to an abnormal tissue growth on the eye, which is called pterygium. This is a thin, 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 be uncomfortable, and can even alter the curve of the eyeball, causing astigmatism. If the pterygium begins to grow over the cornea, it can damage vision and may need to be surgically removed. Because pterygia are the result of extended UV exposure and windy conditions, it is entirely preventable.
Talk to your optometrist about all the different UV protection options, including fixed tint sunglasses, adaptive lenses and polarized lenses.