Virtually everyone is exposed to UV rays on a daily basis. But the possible dangers related to many years of exposure to these harmful rays aren't really considered, and many barely take enough action to shield their eyes, even if they're expecting to be exposed to the sun for long periods of time. UV overexposure is dangerous and irreversible, and may also lead to more than a few severe, sight-damaging diseases in older age. Therefore, ongoing protection from these rays is vital for everyone.
There are two types of UV rays: UV-A and UV-B, and both are unsafe. Despite the fact that only tiny amounts of UVA and UVB light reach the inner eye, the eye cells are extremely vulnerable to the dangerous effects of their rays. Small amounts of this kind of exposure may cause sunburnt eyes, also known as photokeratitis. When UVB rays enter the cornea, the surrounding cells are destroyed, and this can be expressed as blurred vision, pain or in serious cases, temporary blindness. UVA rays actually permeate the eye much deeper, which causes damage to the retina. After several years, exposure to UV rays can be responsible for significant damage to eye sight. Out of the 20 million people suffering from cataracts, an estimated 20 percent of cases are caused by long-term exposure to UV rays.
An ideal way to shield your eyes from UV rays is through the use of good eyewear. Check that your sunglasses or prescription glasses block 100 percent of UVA and UVB rays. Wearing an insufficient pair of sunglasses can actually be worse than using no sunglasses at all. Think about it this way: when your sunglasses don't offer any UV protection, you are actually being exposed to more UV rays. Such sunglasses tend to reduce the light, which causes your iris to open and let even more light in. This means that more UV will reach your retina. Always check to make sure your sunglasses offer maximum UV protection.
Years of exposure to UV rays can also result in 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 of the eye's surface. In addition to being visually unappealing, a pterygium can cause discomfort, and can even affect the curve of the eyeball, causing astigmatism. If the pterygium begins to grow over the cornea, it can damage vision and may need to be surgically removed. Because pterygia are caused by long-term UV exposure, it is totally preventable.
Speak to your eye care professional about the various UV protection choices, which include fixed tint sunglasses, adaptive lenses and polarized lenses.