Our sun provides life giving light to our planet. However, some of the radiation that the sun emits can potentially harm us. Ultraviolet (UV) light is not visible to us, but can damage our skin and our eyes. There are 3 types of UV radiation. UV-C is absorbed by the ozone layer of the earth, and does not pose any threat. However, UV-A and UV-B can cause short and long term damage to our skin and eyes. UV radiation can also be emitted by artificial sources such as tanning beds, lasers, and welding machines.
Exposure to excessive amounts of UV radiation without protection in a short time can cause a “sunburn” to the eye. Welders know this as welders flash or burn of the eyes. It causes a painful, red, tearing, and light sensitive eye lasting for several days. Looking directly into the sun or artificial source of UV light without protection can cause permanent and irreversible damage to the retina inside the eye. This can cause a permanent blind spot in your vision. That is why we are taught from a young age to not stare into the sun.
Exposure to UV light prematurely ages the eyes. UV exposure accelerates cataract growth, causes growths on the eye called pterygiums and pingueculas, is associated with macular degeneration, and cancer in or around the eye.
So, how can we protect our eyes from UV light? Sunglasses! It is important for all ages to be in the habit of wearing sunglasses even on cloudy days since clouds do not block UV radiation. Even inexpensive sunglasses can block 100% of UV-A and UV-B from reaching the eyes. Some contact lenses also block UV radiation. We never think twice about wearing sunscreen to protect our skin so wear those sunglasses to protect your eyes.
Dr. James Ivanoski is an Optometrist at Lakeshore Eye Care Professionals. He provides comprehensive eye care for patients of all ages and accepts most insurance plans. For more eye care information, call 262-241-1919 or visit www.LakeShoreVision.com.