It's a fact that basically everybody is exposed to UV rays. However, the possible risks related to years of exposure to these unsafe rays are not often thought about, to a point where the majority of people take little action to shield their eyes, even when they're planning to be out in the sun for an extended period of time. Being exposed to too much UV is dangerous and cannot be reversed, and may also cause several serious, vision-stealing conditions later on in life. Therefore, ongoing protection from UV rays is vital for everyone.
There are two types of UV rays: UVA and UVB, both of which are harmful. Although only minimal measures of UVA and UVB light enter the inner eye, the ocular cells are extremely vulnerable to the dangerous effects of their rays. Even in the short term, small amounts of exposure can easily cause sunburn of the eye, also known as photokeratitis. When UVB rays enter the cornea, the outer cells are significantly damaged, which can lead to blurred vision, pain or in serious cases, even temporary blindness. UVA rays can actually permeate the eye much deeper, causing harm to the retina. Out of the 20 million people with cataracts, an estimated 20 percent are due to long-term UV exposure.
A really great way to shield your eyes from UV rays is with quality sunglasses. Be sure that your sunglasses or regular glasses block 100% of both UVA and UVB rays. Wearing an unsatisfactory pair of sunglasses can actually be more harmful than wearing no sunglasses at all. Basically, if your sunglasses offer no UV protection, you're actually increasing your exposure to UV rays. The inadequate sunglasses will block some of the light, forcing the iris to open and let even more light in. And this means that more UV will reach your retina. Always check to make sure your sunglasses offer effective UV protection.
Going out in a large sunhat or baseball cap will also block up to fifty percent of UV rays. A brimmed hat or cap can also reduce UV rays that hit your eyes from above or around glasses.
Long-term exposure to UV rays can also result in an abnormal tissue growth on the eye, known as pterygium. This is a slim, wedge-shaped tissue growth with blood vessels that appear over the white part on the surface of the eye. In addition to being cosmetically unsightly, a pterygium can be uncomfortable, and can even affect the contour of the eyeball, causing astigmatism. If the pterygium starts to grow over the cornea, it can damage vision and may need to be surgically removed. Because pterygia are caused by long-term UV exposure, it's completely preventable.
Speak to your eye care professional about the various UV protection options, including fixed tint sunglasses, adaptive lenses and polarized lenses.