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Keeping Eyes Safe from UV Rays

Virtually everyone is exposed to UV rays on a daily basis. But the potential dangers related to long-term exposure to these harmful rays are not often considered, and many barely take enough action to guard their eyes, even if they're planning to be exposed to the sun for many hours. Being exposed to too much UV is unsafe and cannot be reversed, and may result in several severe, vision-stealing conditions later on in life. And so, continuing protection from these rays is extremely important.

UV radiation, which comes mostly from the sun, consists of 2 types of damaging rays: UVA and UVB. Even though only tiny measures of UVA and UVB light reach the inner eye, the eye cells are extremely susceptible to the harmful effects of their rays. Intense, short-term of exposure can easily result in sunburnt eyes, often referred to as photokeratitis. When UVB rays are absorbed by the cornea, the outer cells are severely damaged, which can cause pain, blurred vision or temporary blindness. UVA rays actually enter the eye more deeply, causing harm to the retina. Over a number of years, exposure to UV rays may lead to substantial damage to the eyes and vision.

One of the best ways to shield your eyes from UV rays is through the use of good sunglasses. Be sure that your sunglasses or prescription glasses block 100% of both UVA and UVB rays. An inadequate pair of sunglasses can sometimes be more harmful than using no sunglasses at all. Consider this: when sunglasses don't offer any UV protection, you're actually getting more UV rays. Sunglasses that are inadequate generally reduce the light, causing the iris to open and let even more light in. And this means that even more UV will hit the retina. Always check to make sure your sunglasses provide enough UV protection.

Extended exposure to UV rays can also lead to an abnormal tissue growth on the eye, known as pterygium. This is a narrow, wedge-shaped tissue growth with blood vessels that spread over the white part of the eye's surface. In addition to being cosmetically unsightly, a pterygium can irritate the eye, and can even affect the contour of the eyeball, causing astigmatism. If the pterygium starts to grow over the cornea, it can affect vision and may result in surgery. Because pterygia are caused by long-term UV exposure, it's totally preventable.

Speak to your eye care professional about all of your UV protection choices, which include fixed tint sunglasses, adaptive lenses and polarized lenses.

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