It's a fact: almost everybody is regularly exposed to UV rays. However, the potential dangers of many years of exposure to these harsh rays are rarely considered, and many barely take enough action to shield their eyes, even when they're expecting on being out in the sun for many hours. UV overexposure is dangerous and cannot be reversed, and may also lead to more than a few serious, vision-stealing conditions down the road. This means that ongoing protection from these rays is vital for everyone.
UV radiation, which comes mostly from the sun, is made up of 2 categories of damaging rays: UV-A and UV-B. Although only tiny amounts of UVA and UVB light enter the inner eye, the eye tissue is incredibly susceptible to the damaging effects of their rays. Intense, short-term of exposure may cause sunburn of the eye, also known as photokeratitis. When UVB rays are absorbed by the cornea, the surrounding cells are destroyed, and this can be expressed as pain, blurred vision or in serious cases, temporary blindness. UVA rays can actually enter the eye more deeply, causing harm to the retina. Over time, being exposed to UV rays can lead to considerable damage to the eyes.
One of the best ways to guard your eyes from UV rays is with quality sunglasses. Check that your sunglasses or regular eyewear block 100% of both UVA and UVB rays. Wearing an insufficient pair of sunglasses can actually be worse than having no sun protection at all. Think about it this way: if sunglasses don't give you any protection against UV, you are actually getting more UV rays. Such sunglasses generally reduce the light, which causes the iris to open and let more light in. And this means that even more UV will be hitting your retina. Always check to make sure your sunglasses offer effective protection against UV.
Long-term exposure to UV rays can also cause an abnormal tissue growth on the eye, which is called pterygium. This is a slim, wedge-shaped tissue growth with blood vessels that appear over the white part of the eye's surface. In addition to being cosmetically unappealing, a pterygium can irritate the eye, and can even alter the curve of the eyeball, which will cause astigmatism. If the pterygium begins to grow over the cornea, it can blur or obstruct vision and may need to be surgically removed. Because pterygia are the result of long-term UV exposure and windy conditions, it is completely avoidable.
Speak to your optometrist about all of your UV protection options, including adaptive lenses, polarized lenses and fixed tint sunglasses.