The majority of Americans are familiar with the threats of Ultraviolet (UV) rays to your skin, (particularly sunburn and skin cancer) and the importance of using UV blocking sunscreen and using other forms of sun protection when spending time in the sun. But how many of us know that ultraviolet rays and other harmful types of radiation from the sun are also a danger to your eyes?
If you often leave the house without proper eye protection, think again. Frequent absorption of the sun's UV light has been linked to eye damage.
Risks of UV Eye Exposure
Exposure to excessive quantities of ultraviolet radiation over a short interval is known to lead to photokeratitis which means a ''sunburn of the eye'', leading to pain, blurry vision or even temporary vision loss. In the long run, UV exposure can cause more serious eye diseases such as cataracts, macular degeneration, and others, all of which can cause loss of sight. Just like the real thing, tanning beds present a substantial risk of overexposure to UV.
UV Eye Protection
To protect your eyes from threatening UV rays, sunglasses should completely block all UV rays. Look for shades that specify they are ''UV 400'', which indicates that they block all light rays with wavelengths up to 400 nanometers (which includes both UVA and UVB rays, both known to enter the atmosphere).
The size of your sunglasses is also important. Sunglasses with side protection can prevent dangerous ultraviolet rays from coming in through the rear of the sunglasses.
Individuals whose regular activity involves extensive exposure to light from the sun are at the most risk for UV eye damage. UV can be bounced off of surfaces such as snow, water, and white sand and poses the greatest threat from 10 am to 3 pm and during the summer months. Exposure to UV becomes more substantial as you get closer to the equator and at high altitudes. It's recommended that you consult with an eye care professional and to be aware of the risks for UV exposure. Simply putting on your sunglasses can make a world of difference for your precious eyes.