How Can Prolonged UV Exposure Damage Eyes?

UV light is most abundantly emitted by the sun, but it is also found in artificial sources like welding sparks, special lights, and tanning beds. It is both useful and harmful. The body can withstand certain levels of UV light, but prolonged exposure to it can prove harmful to your health. 

 

Fewer people are aware of the dangers of UV light to the eyes than of the negative consequences of excessive sun exposure. Prolonged UV exposure has long-term and short-term effects on the health of your eyes. 

 

 

The Need for Ultraviolet Coating on Your Glasses


 

Your glasses must have an ultraviolet (UV) coating to protect your eyes from UVA and UVB ray overexposure. These types of ultraviolet light can cause effects similar to sunburn on your eyes. Overexposure may result in puffy, red eyes that feel gritty, as if debris is present. If you are light-sensitive, your eyes may become watery. 

 

These symptoms reflect short-term exposure to UV radiation, which can have even worse effects with prolonged solar radiation. It is concerning that approximately 25% of UV damage to the eyes occurs before the age of 20, with children experiencing higher exposure during the summer months.

 

 

The Adverse Effects of UV Light on the Eyes

 

 

Photokeratitis

 


The eye's surface absorbs approximately 80% of UV rays, making it susceptible to corneal sunburn. The best protection against this is wearing UV protection sunglasses, particularly during beach outings or prolonged sun exposure.

 


Cataracts


 

Prevalent worldwide, cataracts primarily affect older individuals but can also occur in infants. They typically develop when the fluid in the eye's lens collects debris that adheres to its surface. This debris causes clouding of the lens, resulting in poor vision and, ultimately, blindness. Prolonged exposure to UV light tends to accelerate the development of cataracts.


Pterygia

 


These growths emerge on the eye's sclera and can extend to the cornea. While not harmless, they can affect vision quality. Wearing UV protection can help prevent their formation.
 


Pinguecula


 

These raised areas on the eye's surface resemble bumps on the eyeball. They usually form on the conjunctiva and appear yellow or white. They are more common in dusty and sandy areas and can be treated with eye drops.

 


Macular Degeneration


 

Commonly found in older individuals, macular degeneration affects the macula, the central part of the retina responsible for sharp central vision. Macular degeneration can manifest as wet or dry forms. The wet form occurs when abnormal blood vessels develop in the macula, leading to fluid leakage. The dry form involves the accumulation of protein and lipid deposits called drusen on the macula, resulting in deterioration.

 

For more information on how prolonged UV exposure can damage eyes, visit Studio Optix at our office in New York, New York. Call (212) 765-4444​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​ to book an appointment today.


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