Everyone is regularly exposed to UV rays. But the possible risks related to years of exposure to these harsh rays aren't really thought about, to a point where many barely take enough action to protect their eyes, even when they're expecting on being exposed to the sun for an extended period of time. Overexposure to UV is dangerous and cannot be reversed, and can also lead to several severe, sight-damaging diseases in older age. This means that ongoing protection from these rays is vital for everyone.
There are two types of UV rays: UVA and UVB, and both are unsafe. Despite the fact that only small amounts of UVA and UVB light hit the inner eye, the eye tissue is incredibly receptive to the dangerous effects of their rays. Intense, short-term of exposure can easily cause sunburnt eyes, often referred to as photokeratitis. When UVB rays are absorbed by the cornea, the outer cells are destroyed, and this can be expressed as blurred vision, pain or in serious cases, even temporary blindness. UVA rays can penetrate much deeper into the eye, causing harm to the retina.
An ideal way to shield your eyes from UV rays is by wearing high quality sunglasses. Check that your sunglasses or prescription glasses block 100% of both UVA and UVB rays. An unsatisfactory pair of sunglasses can actually be more harmful than wearing no sun protection at all. Consider this: when your sunglasses don't offer any protection against UV, you are actually increasing your exposure to UV rays. Sunglasses that are inadequate tend to block some of the light, which causes your iris to open and allow more light in. And this means that even more UV will hit your retina. Always be sure that your sunglasses give enough UV protection.
Years of exposure to UV rays can also cause an abnormal tissue growth on the eye, known as pterygium. This is a slim, wedge-shaped tissue growth with blood vessels that grow over the white part on the surface of the eye. In addition to being visually unsightly, a pterygium can cause discomfort, and can even change the shape of the eyeball, causing astigmatism. If the pterygium starts to grow over the cornea, it can blur or obstruct vision and may require surgery. Because pterygia are caused by long-term UV exposure, it's completely preventable.
Speak to your optometrist about the various UV protection options, including adaptive lenses, polarized lenses and fixed tint sunglasses.