Did you know your eyes need sun protection just like your skin? The same rays from the sun that can cause sunburn and skin cancer can also damage your eyes and vision.
This means that it is important to think about protecting your eyes from damaging ultraviolet radiation just like you think about protecting your skin.
UV radiation is energy that comes from the sun and other sources including tanning beds, welding machines and lasers. UV radiation is invisible, which means we have no visible clues that it is affecting us.
There are three kinds of UV rays:
• UV-C radiation has the highest energy of the three and could be the most dangerous. But the ozone layer in the earth’s atmosphere blocks out almost all UV-C rays from the sun.
• UV-B rays are partially filtered by the earth’s ozone layer. UV-B rays affect melanin in our skin and cause us to tan. Too much UV-B radiation can lead to sunburn, wrinkles and skin cancer.
• UV-A rays are closest to the visible light spectrum of the three kinds of UV rays. UV-A radiation can pass through the outer layer of the eye and reach the lens and retina inside the eye.
Both UV-A and UV-B rays can be harmful to your eyes and vision.
UV-A radiation has been linked to cataracts and to macular degeneration, which is a condition that blacks out the sharp center of your vision.
UV-B rays may contribute to growths that form on the surface of the eye that can cause distorted vision and other problems.
Strong, short-term doses of UV rays can also lead to inflammation in the cornea called photokeratitis. This condition is sometimes referred to as “snow blindness” because it is likely to occur at higher altitudes such as on a ski slope.
Photokeratitis is similar to a sunburn on the eye and can cause a temporary loss of vision.
Extended exposure to UV radiation can also put your eyes and eyelids at higher risk for various types of cancer.
You can protect your eyes from the harmful effects of UV radiation by blocking out the rays. If you are out in the sun, stay in the shade as much as possible or wear a hat with a wide brim.