We all enjoy our day a little bit more when the sun’s out, but it’s important to be aware of the UV rays that the sun emits and the danger these pose to our eyes.
There are three types of these rays: UVA, UVB and UVC.
While UVC rays are the most dangerous, the Earth’s atmosphere actually absorbs these rays before they can pose a threat to us. This leaves UVA and UVB as the rays that can cause damage to our eyes and vision if we don’t protect ourselves properly.
The dangers of UV rays
You may have grown up being told never to look directly at the sun, and rightly so, as a number of vision-related conditions can be caused by exposing your eyes to UV rays.
These conditions include:
Macular degeneration (AMD)
UV rays can contribute to the onset of macular degeneration, a condition where the retina becomes damaged, resulting in central vision loss. This gradual loss of sight often happens as we get older, however increased exposure to UV light can speed up the process.
Cataracts are clouds that form on your eye’s lens, obscuring vision and your ability to focus on objects. Studies have shown that exposure to UVB rays increases the risk of cataracts forming, which require surgery to remove.
Also known as ‘Surfer’s Eye’, pterygium is a benign growth that forms on the conjunctiva of your eye as a result of UV light. Surfers are particularly at risk of developing pterygium due to the long periods of time they spend in the sea, with exposure to both direct and reflected UV rays.
Typically caused by UVB light reflecting off snow, photokeratitis is caused by high short-term exposure to the rays. Essentially, the eye becomes sunburnt from this light, causing blurry vision or temporary sight loss.
How to protect your eyes from UV rays
Fortunately, there are a few precautions you can take to limit your eyes’ exposure to UV rays and keep them safe from harm
This is probably the most obvious one on everyone’s mind, but wearing sunglasses when it’s sunny out is extremely important to protect your eyes from the sun. Always check that your sunglasses at least 99% UV protection and are marked with CE letters, which indicate their compliance with European safety regulations.
Sunglasses with darker lenses offer the most protection, while wrap around frames offer full coverage of your eyes from angles around the lenses. Wearing hats and sitting under umbrellas, particularly at the beach, is also a great way to keep your eyes safe from direct UV rays.
And you’ve probably heard this a thousand times, but make sure to avoid looking directly at the sun. This can cause serious damage to your retina, and bring about a number of eye-related conditions
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