Ultraviolet: the Effects of the Sun on Your Eyes

Fifteen-plus hours of daylight today in this second full week of summer with temperatures tip thermometers near ninety degrees means your body is taking a beating out there, and that includes your eyes! 

We’re all keenly aware that polarized sunglasses are always recommended when you need to protect your eyes from the sun, but do you really have any idea why??

Here’s a quick primer from eyesiteonwellness.com:

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.¹

The sun emits three types of radiation that ultimately reach us here on Earth: ultraviolet, visible, and infrared. It’s the UV rays we really need to worry about, and it turns out, we should be wary of UV exposure even when it’s cloudy outside. Some studies have shown, that partially cloudy skies, under just the right conditions, have raised the UVB rays by nearly 25%!²

UV Eye Damage

While we might not be able to actually see ultraviolet light, it is most definitely there regardless, and its effects on our skin and our eyes are well-documented.

UV exposure is responsible for 80% of visible signs of aging, the kind you see on your skin such as crow’s feet around the eyes, wrinkles, sun spots, and looser skin.

UV rays are harmful to your skin, and they age you a bit more each day by creating new wrinkles, sun spots, and looseness in the skin around your eyes. Extreme or long-term exposure can lead to skin cancer. Of course, you can cover your skin or use sunscreen, but the only sensible sunscreen for your eyes beyond shade is sunglasses.

The cornea is the clear outer covering of the eye, and if you want to think of it this way, it can be considered the “skin” of your eye, and just like skin, it can also get sunburned. Basically, a sunburn of the cornea is called photokeratitis. This is a painful inflammation of the cornea caused by unfiltered UV ray exposure.

Beyond sunburns on the skin and the eyes, too much UV exposure can cause cataracts, growths on the white of your eyes called pinguecula and pterygia, and ultimately macular degeneration.³ 

Simple Summer UV Solutions

You don’t need to hide yourself away from the sun for the rest of the summer to avoid the effects of UV radiation, all you really need to do is protect yourself when you’re outdoors. BOE has an incredible selection of sunglasses for you to choose from, almost all of which can be fitted with prescription polarized lenses to protect you from the sun.

When it comes to sunglasses, you’ll want to make sure that the pair you choose provide 100% UV or UV400 protection, or block both UVA and UVB rays, UVB being the most harmful.

Once you check sunglasses off your list, consider a wide-brimmed hat, shade structures when outdoors, and definitely provide extra protection for the children and elderly in your family.

Protect Your Eyes at Berlin Optical Expressions

¹ https://www.eyesiteonwellness.com/the-sun-and-your-eyes-what-you-need-to-know/

² https://www.drgurgen.com/are-the-suns-uv-rays-really-stronger-on-cloudy-days-fact-or-m

³ https://www.allaboutvision.com/conditions/sun-damage-result/