Many people are aware of ultraviolet (UV) radiation’s effects on the skin, but did you know that UV light can also damage your eyes and vision significantly?
Acute effects of excessive UV exposure to the eyes can lead to a photokeratitis of the cornea, also known as as “welder’s flash” due to an artificial UV source, or “snow blindness” if caused by indirect sunlight reflected off shiny surfaces like snow or ice. Staring at the sun or solar eclipses can lead to a “burn” of the retina (located in the back of the eye that processes light) called solar retinopathy. Severe solar retinopathy will permanently damage a patient’s central vision. Do not look directly at the sun.
Long-term exposure to UV radiation from the sun is a common cause of cataracts, which is a clouding of the natural lens in your eye. Patients with significant cataracts will report blurry vision and an increase in glare. Up to 10% of all skin cancers occur on the eyelids, of which basal cell carcinoma is the most common type. A pinguecula is a yellowish, slightly raised thickening of the conjunctiva overlying the white part of the eye (sclera). A pterygium is an elevated, wedged-shaped growth of the conjunctiva that extends onto the cornea. Both conditions can make the eyes look red and inflamed.
Whether the source is natural, like the sun, or man-made, like tanning beds, UV radiation can harm your eyes in many ways. See your optometrist annually for an eye exam, to learn more on UV effects, and to learn how to protect your eyes for a safe, healthy year!