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How Does Ultraviolet Light Damage Your Eyes?

It’s no secret that UV light has a damaging effect on the skin. However, many people don’t realize the damage that UV light can have on their eyes. The tissues that make up our eyes are some of the most sensitive tissues found in our entire body. July is National Ultraviolet Safety Month, so our vision professionals at Nevada Eye Physicians in Las Vegas, Mesquite, Henderson, Pahrump, and Boulder City, NV want to offer tips on how to protect your eyes from UV light exposure. We can examine your eye health to determine if you have existing eye damage from UV light. Ultimately, UV radiation, whether from artificial UV rays or natural sunlight, can be damaging to your eyes.

What is UV light?

Ultraviolet rays aren’t a part of visible light. This is because they are higher in energy, which makes them so harmful. There are three categories of UV radiation that include:

  • UVC: This is the highest energy UV rays that are the most harmful.

  • UVB: These are slightly lower energy than UVC, but in low doses, they can still cause damage. Overexposure to this radiation can lead to photokeratitis.

  • UVA: UVA rays are closer to visible light rays and can easily pass through the cornea and reach the lens. Overexposure has been linked to cataracts and macular degeneration.

What does UV light do to your eyes?

UV radiation can cause damage from short-term or long-term exposure. This can harm the eyes, affect your vision, and lead to deteriorating eye health overall. There are many eye conditions or diseases that can be caused or worsened from UV radiation, including:

  • Cataracts: A cataract is a clouding of the eye’s lens, which is responsible for focusing on the light we see. UV light increases the risk of developing them.

  • Macular degeneration: This is caused by damage to the retina. Extended UV radiation exposure increases your risk of developing this eye disease.

  • Photokeratitis: Snow blindness is caused by high short-term exposure to UVB rays. It can cause temporary vision loss.

  • Skin cancer: Damage in and around your eyelids can be caused by prolonged UV exposure by harmful UV light.

UV risk factors

There are many risk factors associated with UV exposure and the damage it does, including:

  • Medications: If you’re on diuretics, tranquilizers, or birth control pills, you can be more sensitive to UV radiation.

  • Geographic location: UV exposure is greater when you are closer to the equator.

  • Altitude: You’re at a higher risk if you’re at a higher altitude.

  • Time of day: UV exposure is greater when the sun is high in the sky, around 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Protecting your eyes from UV light exposure

To protect your eyes from harmful radiation efficiently, follow these tips:

  1. Wear sunglasses: Wear protective eyewear that blocks 99-100% UVA and UVB radiation. Remember, even when it’s cloudy, you should wear sunglasses as UV rays can penetrate clouds. If you work outside, choose sunglasses lenses that are made from polycarbonate and wrap around your face to protect from damage at all angles.

  2. Wear UV-blocking contacts: Contacts that protect against UV rays offer the best protection for your eyes. Our vision professionals can inform you of the best UV-blocking contact lenses at Nevada Eye Physicians.

  3. Schedule regular eye exams: These comprehensive eye exams allow our professionals to track any eye damage you have.

It’s important that you also protect babies and children because nearly 80% of all UV exposure occurs before the age of 18.

Learn about UV light protection during a comprehensive eye exam

At Nevada Eye Physicians, we believe prevention is important. Our vision professionals can evaluate your eyes and diagnose eye issues at a comprehensive eye exam. We can discuss treatment options that can help relieve or resolve your condition. We offer eye exams at all seven locations of our Nevada offices, including Las Vegas, Henderson, Boulder City, Mesquite, and Pahrump. To schedule an appointment, call our office today.

* All information subject to change. Images may contain models. Individual results are not guaranteed and may vary.