Family Eye Health & Contact Lens Center

All About Vision – Seeing More Clearly

How UV Rays Damage You Eyes

on July 19, 2012

This year you are probably seeing and hearing a lot about protecting your eyes from the damaging effects of UV light.  There is a hugh national campaign going on right now explaining the importance of protecting your eyes from these damaging rays.  Most of the time we don’t even realize the damaging effects of UV radiation as it is invisible to the eye. However, out of sight should not mean out of mind when it comes to UV radiation. This is why you should make sure you and your family always wears sunglasses that filter UVA and UVB rays while spending time outdoors during the day. This is especially true for children, since their eyes allow more light in than an adults, and studies have shown that 80% of all  UV damage done to the eyes is done between the ages of birth and 18 years.

There are two types of damaging UV rays:

UV-A: which can hurt your central vision by damaging the macula, which is a part of the retina that is responsible for high acuity vision.

UV-B: the cornea and lens in the front part of your eye absorbs most of the UV-B rays, but these rays may cause even more damage than the UV-A rays.

Facts for Parents

  • Almost 50% of parents report that their children “seldom” or “never” wear sunglasses with 100% UV protection.
  • Although 82% of parents feel it is important for children to wear sunglasses and 91% feel sunscreen should be worn, children are two times more likely to wear sunscreen than they are sunglasses.
  • The lens in a child’s eye does not block as much UV radiation as in an adult’s eye, putting them at increased risk for sun damage to the eyes.
  • Adults also need to take precaution when they are in the sun. Before you go out without a pair of sunglasses again take note of the facts about UV damage. Certain medications, such as birth control pills, sulfa drugs, diuretics and tranquilizers can increase your risk to eye disease or impairment. 
  • Damage can include blurred vision, change in color vision or difficulty seeing at night.

What eye issues can UV rays cause?

Macular Degeneration which is the leading cause of vision loss in older Americans.

Cataracts especially UV-B rays can cloud the eye’s natural lens, the part of the eye that focuses the light we see.

Pterygium a growth that begins forming on the whites of the eye and may also involve the cornea. Eventually, the growth may block vision. This is more common in people who work outside in the sun and wind.

Skin Cancer the skin around the eyes is very sensitive and is more prone to skin cancer with prolonged UV exposure.

Corneal Sunburn also called photokeratitis, it is the result of high short term exposure to UV-B rays. Long hours at the beach, skiing without protection, using tanning beds without goggles, can cause this problem. It can be very painful and may even cause temporary vision loss.

Protecting yourself and your children from the effect of UV rays on your eyes is easy! Wearing sunglasses or goggles that filter UVA and UVB rays is the best way to shield your eyes from the sun as well as dirt, dust and other particles that can irritate the eyes.  Your local family optician can assist you in finding a pair of sunglasses to fit your vision needs and your lifestyle!


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