How Ultraviolet Radiation Affects the Eyes

We know that overexposure to ultraviolet (UV) rays can cause significant damage to the skin – the most significant damage being skin cancer. But UV rays can be extremely harmful to the eyes as well. Here’s what you should know about how UV rays and your vision. OptiExpress provides comprehensive eye exams, contact lens fittings, a gallery of designer frames, and a one-hour onsite lab.

Protecting the eyes from harmful UV rays is just as important as protecting the skin from sunburn. UV exposure can lead to noticeable symptoms, including irritation, blurred vision, swelling, and redness. Moreover, it can damage the eyes dramatically over time. Fortunately, protecting the eyes from UV exposure is fairly straightforward. Here are a few things you need to know about UV exposure.

UV Exposure Risks

UV rays are emitted by the sun, and depending upon your location, the levels can be high enough to be quite damaging. Tropical areas and high-altitude regions tend to have the highest UV concentrations, making sun protection exponentially more important. Additionally, certain medications can make you more vulnerable to sun damage, as can sun exposure in places where there are large areas of reflective surface, like snowy or white sand environments.

Overexposure to UV rays can trigger numerous serious eye conditions, including but not limited to:

  • Cancer. Research from the Skin Cancer Foundation found that approximately 10 percent of all cases of skin cancer are formed on the eyelid. Additionally, intraocular melanoma is diagnosed in almost 3,000 patients in the United States yearly.

  • Cataracts. According to estimates from the World Health Organization, roughly 20 percent of all cases of cataracts were caused or made worse by exposure to UV rays.

  • Macular degeneration. The leading cause of vision loss in people over the age of 60 is age-related macular degeneration. Early macular degeneration is typically triggered by excessive UV exposure.

  • Photokeratitis. This condition, also called snow blindness, is effectively a sunburn of the eyes. The resulting inflammation causes temporary loss of vision, and it gets its name because it is a common condition among skiers, though it can occur in a variety of environments.

It isn’t unusual for people suffering from the above conditions to not have recognized that sun exposure was a considerable – if not the main – contributing factor. Nevertheless, it is never too early to start protecting your eyes from UV rays. UV protection in the form of sunglasses is the best, most effective method for preventing long-term damage, but there are some brands of contact lenses that offer considerable protection, too. OptiExpress offers designer sunglasses, prescription sunglasses, transition lenses, and contact lenses that provide protection as high as 100 percent (though certain contact lenses offer between 85 and 95 percent protection).

If you’re looking for fabulous eyewear, OptiExpress offers a tremendous selection of designer sunglasses in the Cape Coral and Ft. Myers eye care centers.

OptiExpress founder Dr. J. Michael Witherington is one of Ft. Myers’s top eye care providers, having practiced in South Florida for over 20 years. To schedule an eye exam at our Ft. Myers or Cape Coral location, please visit our contact page.