Ultraviolet Radiation And Your Eyes
- 14 May 2019
- Cooper Vision
Most people are aware of the skin cancer risks associated with too much ultraviolet (UV) light exposure. It’s why we carefully apply sunscreen before heading out the door. But did you know that it’s just as important to protect your eyes? Research shows that more than one-third of adults have experienced symptoms due to prolonged UV exposure, such as eye irritation, trouble seeing and red or swollen eyes.1
The good news is that protecting your eyes is as easy as protecting your skin. Here’s what you need to know.
What Is UV?
The sun emits different types of UV rays—two of which are widely known to be a serious cause for concern. In particular, UVA and UVB are not fully absorbed or altered when they pass through the atmosphere, which means they pose a risk to eyes and skin. How much of a risk depends on lots of factors, including your geographic location (UV levels are greater in tropical areas near the earth's equator), altitude (UV levels are greater at higher altitudes) and time of day (UV levels are typically greater from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.).
Other factors that influence risk include medications you take and your specific setting. For example, if you are in an environment with lots of highly reflective surfaces, such as sand and snow, UV exposure is much higher than it would be if you were standing in middle of a city, shaded by lots of tall buildings.
Surprisingly, seasonal changes have less of an impact than you might think. In fact, even though you feel the sun’s rays more in the summer, because snow is so reflective, winter can be twice as dangerous.1
Why Are Eyes at Risk?
Although UV comes from the sun, make no mistake: it has a dark side—particularly with regard to the health of your eyes. Several eye problems have been linked to UV exposure, including cataracts, macular degeneration, pingueculae, pterygia, photokeratitis, cancers of the eye and surrounding skin, and more.