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Is UV Light Bad for Your Eyes?

Spring is here, with summer already quickly on the way. That means warmer temperatures, clearer skies, and many more reasons to enjoy the outdoors. But while you may be excited to start having fun in the sun, what you may not know is just how dangerous UV rays can be for your eyesight.

Join the experts at Clarkson Eyecare as we delve into exactly what UV light does to your eyes and what precautions you can take to keep your vision healthy while you enjoy the nice weather.

UV Light Causes Problems in All Parts of the Eye

The connection between getting too much sun and skin cancer is well established, but did you know catching too many rays with your eyes can harm them, too?

UV light, or ultraviolet light, is radiated from the sun and consists of lower frequency light emissions than what we can see as part of the visible light spectrum. However, its lower wave frequency allows UV rays to penetrate more deeply into your body’s tissues, including your eyelids and eyes.

While the front parts of your eye usually take the bulk of the damage from UV emissions, overexposure can cause problems with structures deeper in the back of your eye. If you don’t use proper eye protection while spending time outside, you could potentially be looking at permanent vision damage or a higher likelihood of chronic vision conditions later in life.

Common Eye Conditions Caused by UV Light Exposure

UV light exposure can cause everything from benign growths in the eye to serious, sight-threatening conditions like macular degeneration. These potentially harmful eye conditions include:

Pterygium

Pterygia, also known as Surfer’s Eye due to its connection to outdoor UV light exposure, is a non-cancerous growth on the conjunctiva (white part of the eye). While it is benign, it can cause your eye to feel constantly irritated. If left untreated, pterygia can sometimes grow across the eye and eventually cover the cornea, leading to blocked vision. When this happens, the pterygium must be surgically removed.

Pinguecula

Like pterygia, pinguecula are growths on the conjunctiva of the eye as a direct result of exposure to UV light. A pinguecula presents as a small bump on the white part of the eye. They can also cause your eye to feel irritated and can increase the risk of developing dry eye. Unlike pterygia, there is little risk a pinguecula will develop to obstruct your vision. Surgery to remove them is usually only necessary as a cosmetic measure because patients don’t like how they look.

Photokeratitis

Did you know your eyes can get sunburned just like any other part of your body? Photokeratitis is a temporary but painful eye condition caused by exposure to higher levels of UV light. This includes sunlight itself or reflected sunlight from water or snow. Treatments for this condition usually involve home remedies to alleviate discomfort, like cold compresses. But even though the symptoms are temporary, the damage done by UV exposure is permanent and may cause issues in the future, like how getting sunburnt consistently can lead to skin cancer.

Cataracts

Cataracts are a common eye condition that affects millions of Americans every year. It’s characterized by the clouding of the eye’s natural lens as the protein structure within breaks down and clumps together. This causes issues such as blurry vision, a yellowish tint or leeching of color, glare sensitivity, seeing halos around lights, and trouble seeing at night or in the dark.

Much like how exposure to UV radiation can change the way proteins function in the body, leading to cancer, exposing your eyes to UV radiation alters the proteins in your eye’s lens. This can cause the proteins to break down prematurely, leading to early cataracts or significantly increasing your chance of developing cataracts later in life.

Cancers of the Eyelid

Basal Cell Carcinoma and Squamous Cell Carcinoma are cancers of the eyelids and tissues surrounding the eye. Both conditions have been linked to increased UV light exposure. They can cause significant issues for vision health and overall well-being.

Macular Degeneration

Macular degeneration occurs when the macula, the back part of the eye responsible for processing light, deteriorates. This causes the center of your vision to become blurred. While there is no cure for this condition, if it is not treated and managed, it will eventually cause permanent blindness. Exposure to UV light is linked to an increased risk of age-related macular degeneration.

How to Protect Your Eyes from UV Light

Because UV light causes so many different eye problems, it is extremely important to make sure your eyes are protected when you venture outside. It isn’t just regular sunlight you have to worry about, either; UV light can reflect from other surfaces such as water or snow. Reflected UV light can cause just as many problems as direct sunlight. You can even still be exposed to UV light on cloudy days!

There are a few important precautions you should take before venturing outdoors. First, always wear sunglasses. Sunglasses with a rating of UV400 are designed to reflect UV light while letting visible light pass through to your eyes. This is the most practical way to avoid damaging your eyes.

To further protect your eyes and the rest of your face, it’s recommended to wear a hat with a brim that sticks out and shades your face. The brim of the hat will block most of the direct UV light radiating from above.

Finally, as your eyelids have some of the thinnest skin on your body and can burn easily, it’s recommended to use sunblock. Make sure when applying sunscreen to always take a moment to rub some onto your eyelids and the areas surrounding your eyes.

By following these simple tips, you can significantly reduce the chances of developing UV light-related vision problems.

Get Stylish UV-Blocking Sunglasses at Clarkson Eyecare

Looking for a new pair of sunglasses to protect your eyes before heading outside this spring and summer? Clarkson Eyecare has a huge selection, containing both designer and non-designer frames. Get the protection you need and look good while doing it!

With Clarkson Eyecare’s virtual try-on feature, you can select a pair of shades and try them on from the comfort of your home before picking them up at any of our hundreds of locations in Missouri, Illinois, Ohio, Kentucky, Michigan, Minnesota, Texas, New Jersey, Virginia, Georgia, and Florida.

Or, if you’re looking for help getting prescription sunglasses, schedule an eye exam with our experienced eye doctors!

Your eyes are precious. Protect them with help from Clarkson Eyecare.

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