How Sunlight Damages The Eyes
Is It Serious?
Did you know it's just as important to protect your eyes from the sun's harmful rays as it is to shield your skin?.
The intense ultraviolet (UV) rays of the sun damage sensitive cells in the eyes, eventually affecting vision. Experts say it is difficult to isolate the exact amount of damage that UV radiation imposes on the eye over a long period. However, a number of studies have shown that the effects build up and may increase the chance of developing eye problems later in life. These may include cataracts, a clouding of the lens of the eye. Cataracts are a leading cause of reduced vision in the United States in people age 60 and older, according to the National Eye Institute.
ABCs of Ultraviolet Radiation
There are three ranges of UV radiation: UVC, UVB and UVA. The most damaging form is UVC, but luckily it's absorbed by the Earth's atmosphere and doesn't reach us.
Exposure to UVB rays is closely linked with photokeratitis (a kind of sunburn of the cornea), cataracts, pterygium (a white or creamy fleshy growth on the surface of the eye) and a form of eye cancer called squamous cell carcinoma of the conjunctiva (a rare tumor of the surface of the eye).
Although laboratory studies find exposure to UVA rays can damage the retina (the light-sensitive membrane that covers the back of the eye), very little UVA reaches your retina because most is absorbed by other parts of the eye.
Eye Damage in the Short Term Is Possible
It can take years before you experience any of the sun's damaging effects on your eyes. But, some damage can occur in the short term, such as photokeratitis and photoconjunctivitis, an inflammation of the membrane outside of the eye (think pink eye). If your eyes feel tired, sore and gritty after a day at the beach, skiing or boating, you may have experienced UV radiation exposure.
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