By Dr. Carter H. Gussler, MD and Dr. John C. Gross, MD, Tri-State Ophthalmology –
Most people are aware of the need to protect their skin from harmful damage caused by the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays. However, you may not be aware of the damage the sun can do to your eyes.
The UV rays absorbed cause a reaction in the eye tissue, which once occurs cannot be reversed. There are two types of UV rays, one called UVA rays, which penetrate to the back of the eye, and the other called UVB rays, which penetrate to the front of the eye. Both of these ultraviolet rays are quite capable of damaging one’s eyes, which is why spending increased hours in the outdoor sun without appropriate protection can be harmful.
Unlike other parts of your body, your eye’s lens does not repair itself when damaged. Cells and proteins that get damaged will never be replaced, and over time, the damage to your lens may lead to serious eye diseases or possibly loss of vision.
Symptoms of Eye Damage caused by Sunlight
The symptoms of excessive sun exposure may not appear until 6-12 hours after exposure. The symptoms are as follows:
. Excessive blinking and tearing
. Swelling of the eyes
. Painful tearing
. Sensitivity to bright lights
Eye Conditions Caused by Sun Damage
The harmful effects of these rays are three times greater in the summer than in the winter. Although this is true, you still run a high risk of sustaining serious eye damage if you do not wear eye protection in the winter months. UV rays can also damage your eyes on overcast and cloudy days.
Exposure to these harmful rays without eye protection can lead to:
. Age-related macular degeneration
. Pterygia – tissue growths on the whites of the eyes
. Skin cancer near the eyes
. Photokeratitis – sunburn of the cornea
Risk Factors for Eye Damage Caused by Sunlight
While all people are at risk of eye damage from prolonged exposure to the sun, several groups face an increased risk. In particular, children under the age of 10 may sustain serious retinal damage from sun exposure. Their eyes are not able to block as much UV radiation as adult eyes can. As a result, it is extremely important that young children wear eye protection at all times when outside in the sun.
Other groups of people at an above-average risk of eye damage from the sun include:
. People with retinal disorders
. Cataract surgery patients
. People taking medications that increase eye sensitivity to sunlight
. People with lighter-pigmented eyes
Protecting your Eyes from Sun Damage
Eye damage from the sun is cumulative over the course of your life. The more you are exposed to sunlight, the more likely you are to suffer permanent damage to your eyes. Therefore, it is important to always wear eye protection whenever you are outside during the day. Studies have shown that UV rays are strongest between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., so it is especially important to protect your eyes during these hours.
The best way to protect your eyes is to wear sunglasses. However, not all sunglasses will provide you with equal protection from UV and blue light rays. For maximum protection, you should look for sunglasses that:
. Block 99-100% of UVA and UVB rays
. Block blue light rays
. Contain large lenses that fit close to your eyes
Take every necessary measure to protect your eyes from the harmful, invisible UV rays of the sun. Remember, once your eyes have been damaged by sunlight, the damage cannot be reversed. Buy proper sunglasses and take precautionary measures to prevent any kind of damage. As the old saying goes, an ounce of prevention is better than a pound of cure!
If you have questions about your vision or would like to schedule an appointment with an ophthalmologist, please call Tri-State Ophthalmology today at 606-324-2451.
2841 Lexington Ave., Ashland, KY
Carter H. Gussler, MD
John C. Gross, MD
We take appointments by referral only.