Are you aware of the dangerous effects that ultraviolet light has on the body and eyes? Exposure to these harmful rays can affect the eyes in various ways.

EXTERNAL CONDITIONS:

1. Photokeratitis: “sunburn to the cornea” – Most commonly occurs in ski or beach areas where the snow and water reflect extra rays to the cornea, increasing the exposure.

2. Pinguecula: Small nodules can form on the white of the eye, right next to the iris. They are considered to be more common in those who spend a lot of time outdoors.

3. Pterygium: These are similar to pinguecula and occur in the same area.

4. Skin cancers: The same external skin cancers provoked by the sun can occur on the tissues on and around the eye:  the eyelids and the conjunctiva (clear tissue on the surface of the eyeball itself).

INTERNAL CONDITIONS:

1. Cataracts: The lens naturally loses some clarity and discolors with normal aging, but studies have shown that cataracts can occur earlier and more extreme, with the increased exposure in outdoor light.

2. Macular Degeneration: There is an association between exposure to UV light and the development of macular degeneration. Eating certain foods, such as kale, collard greens, and spinach, may aid in protecting the eye from UV damage.

3. Solar Maculopathy: A direct look at the sun will allow the eye to focus and concentrate the damaging rays in the most vulnerable part of the eye. This commonly occurs during solar eclipses, when people try to get a direct view of the eclipse.

PREVENTING UV LIGHT DAMAGE:

Be sure to wear a good quality sunglass lens when spending time outdoors in sunny conditions, especially around snow, ice, or water. These substances reflect the rays, thereby increasing the amount reaching and entering the eye. A poor quality sunglass lens may actually increase exposure to UV rays, as the dark color on the lens causes the pupil to enlarge, allowing more rays to enter the eye. UV rays easily penetrate many types of plastic, despite the darkness of the color of the lens.

 

-Dr. Tracy