UV LIGHT AND
UV rays can be harmful to your eyes and you may be at risk more often than you know! Learn about the impact of UV light and how to prevent damage to your eyes.
The sun is shining and summer is on the way, but did you know that your eyes are the only internal tissue in your body that is exposed to ultra-violet radiation? To help you understand UV light, its dangers and why it is important to protect your eyes, we have broken down the two types of UV rays that are harmful to us:
UVB rays are partially filtered by the ozone layer, and in low doses stimulates the production of a skin pigment (melanin), which gives you a suntan. In higher doses, UVB will cause the skin to burn, which can increase the chances of skin cancer. UVB radiation can also cause signs of premature aging of the skin, such as wrinkles, as well as skin discolourations. Your eyelids can often be at risk of UVB exposure, especially if sun cream has not been applied and many creams recommend against application around the eyes, putting you at greater risk.
UVA rays have a lower energy and are closer to visible light rays, however, UVA light can pass through the cornea and reach the lens and retina inside your eye. This kind of exposure can lead to UV damage, both temporary and permanent, causing irritation to the eye and even vision issues.
The danger of these rays often lies in the fact they are invisible and many people are unaware of exposure, which can then lead to short and long term damage. See below some of the common problems from overexposure to UV light:
Triggered by bright snowy conditions or the sun’s reflection off water and sand, Photokeratitis is an eye condition that affects the surface of the cornea, causing pain, redness, headaches, halo effect and light sensitivity. It essentially ‘sunburns’ the eye.
Long outdoor exposure can result in growths on the eyes. People most at risk tend to be skiers, farmers, fisherman, surfers and others who spend extended periods intense sunlight. Symptoms can include redness, inflammation, foreign body sensation, dry and itchy eyes.
Overexposure to daylight can increase the chances of developing cataracts, which is essentially cloudy patches on the lens of the eye. Signs of cataracts include blurred, cloudy, misty or double vision, poor night vision, sensitivity to light, halo effect, and a yellow or brown tinge to your sight. Too much exposure to UV rays can also contribute to up to 90% of premature aging of the eyes, cause other eye diseases and even skin cancer of the eyelids, so it is essential to ensure you are properly protected from the dangers of UV.
Wearing lenses (tinted or clear) with UV protection helps shield your eyes from ultra-violet radiation, preventing short or long term damage. However, many people are unaware that their eyes are at risk of UV exposure when the sun isn’t even shining. UV radiation can penetrate through clouds, with up to 40% of sun exposure occurring when you’re not even in direct sunlight! Rays can also reflect off buildings, water, glass, the sky, the ground, and the back surface of a lens not treated with UV protection. As you can see, wearing UV protected glasses is an important factor in your eye care.
When outside, you should always wear UV coated glasses, not only to protect your eyes, but the areas around your eyes where you may not be able to apply sun cream. It is also really important to note that not all sunglasses are UV protected. These sunglasses can be more damaging than not wearing any protective eyewear as they help you to see better in bright light by allowing your pupils to dilate, which exposes your eyes to even more UV light. If you’re not a prescription glasses wearer, always make sure your glasses state 99 or 100% UVA & UVB protection or UV 400 protection.
Prescription glasses and sunglasses can have UV coated lenses to ensure you’re protected all of the time. The level of protection depends on the lens, which should have an Eye-Sun Protection Factor (E- SPF) ranging from 25 to 50+.
As with sun cream, the higher the factor the stronger the protection, the E-SPF of clear lenses may vary slightly, often not offering higher than 25. If you need a higher level of protection, UV sunglasses will provide the protection in bright sunlight and prevent squinting. A significant amount of UV exposure for glasses wearers can come from lens’ rear surface, so always check that both sides of the lens is E-SPF protected.
In addition to UV protection, sunglasses make it easier to see in varying degree of sunlight, reducing the amount you squint. There are multiple types and levels of tints for different conditions.