Virtually everyone is exposed to UV rays on a daily basis. However, the possible risks related to long-term exposure to these unsafe rays aren't really thought about, to a point where the majority of people barely take enough action to guard their eyes, even when they're expecting on being exposed to the sun for many hours. Being exposed to too much UV is unsafe and cannot be reversed, and may also result in more than a few serious, sight-damaging diseases in older age. This means that ongoing protection from UV rays is a must for everyone.
There are two types of UV rays: UVA and UVB, and both are unsafe. Although only small measures of UVA and UVB light enter the inner eye, the ocular cells are incredibly susceptible to the harmful effects of their rays. Small amounts of this kind of exposure can easily lead to sunburnt eyes, or photokeratitis. When the cornea receives UVB rays, the surrounding cells are severely damaged, and this can lead to blurred vision, pain or even temporary blindness. UVA rays can enter the eye more deeply, which harms to the retina. Of the 20 million people who suffer from cataracts, an estimated 20 percent are partly caused by extended exposure to UV rays.
An ideal way to shield your eyes from UV rays is by wearing quality sunglasses. Check that your sunglasses or prescription eyewear block both UVA and UVB rays completely. An unsatisfactory pair of sunglasses can actually be more harmful than wearing no sunglasses at all. Think about it this way: when your sunglasses don't give you any UV protection, it means you're actually getting more UV rays. Sunglasses that are inadequate will block some of the light, forcing the iris to open and let even more light in. This means that even more UV will reach the retina. Always check to make sure your sunglasses give effective protection against UV.
Long-term exposure to UV rays can also lead to an abnormal tissue growth on the eye, known as pterygium. This is a thin, 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 cause discomfort, and can even affect the contour of the eyeball, which leads to astigmatism. If the pterygium starts to grow over the cornea, it can affect vision and may result in surgery. Because pterygia are the result of extended UV exposure and windy conditions, it's totally avoidable.
Make an appointment to speak with your eye care professional about the various UV protection options, including adaptive lenses, polarized lenses and fixed tint sunglasses.