Everyone is regularly exposed to UV rays. Even though this is the case, the possible risks related to years of exposure to these harsh rays are not often thought about, to a point where many take little action to shield their eyes, even if they're planning to be out in the sun for long periods of time. Overexposure to UV is dangerous and cannot be reversed, and can also result in several serious, sight-stealing diseases down the road. And so, continuing protection from UV rays is extremely important.
There are two types of UV rays: UVA and UVB, and both are unsafe. Although only tiny measures of UVA and UVB light hit the inner eye, the eye cells are incredibly vulnerable to the harmful effects of their rays. Intense, short-term of exposure can result in sunburnt eyes, often referred to as photokeratitis. When UVB rays are absorbed by the cornea, the outer cells are significantly damaged, which can cause blurred vision, pain or even temporary blindness. UVA rays can enter the eye more deeply, which causes damage to the retina. After several years, UV rays may lead to substantial damage to the eyes. Out of the 20 million people who suffer from cataracts, about 20 percent of cases are partly caused by extended UV exposure.
A really great way to guard your eyes from UV rays is through the use of good sunglasses. Check that your sunglasses or prescription eyewear block 100 percent of UVA and UVB rays. An insufficient pair of sunglasses can actually be even worse than having no sunglasses at all. Basically, if your sunglasses offer no protection against UV, it means you're actually being exposed to more UV rays. Such sunglasses tend to reduce the light, forcing the iris to open and allow even more light in. And this means that more UV will be hitting your retina. Always check to make sure your sunglasses offer maximum UV protection.
Wearing a large hat or cap can also block roughly half of UV rays. A brimmed hat or cap will also reduce UV rays that hit the eyes from above or around glasses.
Extended exposure to UV rays can also cause an abnormal tissue growth on the eye, known as pterygium. This is a narrow, wedge-shaped tissue growth with blood vessels that grow over the white part of the eye's surface. In addition to being cosmetically unsightly, a pterygium can irritate the eye, and can even alter the shape of the eyeball, which leads to astigmatism. If the pterygium begins to grow over the cornea, it can damage vision and may result in surgery. Because pterygia are the result of extended UV exposure and windy conditions, it's entirely avoidable.
Speak to your eye care professional about all of your UV protection choices, including fixed tint sunglasses, adaptive lenses and polarized lenses.