The majority of Americans are familiar with the dangers of Ultraviolet (UV) rays to your skin, (including sunburn and skin cancer) and the importance of using sunscreen and avoiding direct contact with the sun particularly during the blazing summer months. What is less known is that ultraviolet rays and other harmful types of radiation from the sun also pose a threat to your eyes.
If you are thinking of going outside without proper eye protection, think again. Continual contact with harmful ultraviolet light has been seen to be a cause of damage to the eye.
Risks of UV Eye Exposure
Exposure to large amounts of ultraviolet radiation over a short interval can cause a ''sunburn of the eye'', leading to pain, blurred vision or even temporary vision loss. In the long run, UV exposure can lead to more threatening eye diseases such as cataracts, macular degeneration, and others, all of which can be a threat to vision. Individuals that come into frequent contact with welding machines, tanning beds and lasers are also at heightened risk of exposure to UV radiation.
How to Choose Protective Sunglasses
To guard your eyes from threatening UV rays, sunglasses should completely block all UV rays. Stick with sunglasses that specify they are ''UV 400'', which means that they block all light rays with wavelengths up to 400 nanometers (which includes both UVA and UVB rays, both known to enter the atmosphere).
You also want to choose sunglasses with full eye coverage. Wraparound sunglasses can block dangerous UV light from entering from the sides and back of the frame.
Individuals whose work or recreation involves lengthy exposure to sunlight are at the highest risk for damage to their eyes. Ultraviolet radiation can be bounced off of bright surfaces such as snow, water, and white sand and presents the greatest risk from 10 am to 3 pm and throughout the summer months. UV radiation levels increase nearer to the equator and at high altitudes. It's important to speak to an optometrist and to know the hazards of UV exposure. The simple act of putting on your sunglasses can make a world of difference for your precious eyes.