Most Americans are familiar with the dangers of Ultraviolet (UV) exposure to your skin, (including sunburn and skin cancer) and the importance of applying UV blocking sunscreen and using other forms of sun protection during outdoor activities. What is less known is that UV and other types of radiation from the sun are also a risk to your eyes.
If you tend to leave the house without sunglasses, think about this: Frequent contact with harmful ultraviolet rays has been seen to be a cause of damage to the eye.
UV Eye Damage
Exposure to excessive amounts of ultraviolet radiation over a short amount of time is known to cause photokeratitis or a ''sunburn on the eye'', which results in pain, blurred vision or even temporary blindness. Long-term ultraviolet exposure can result in more threatening eye diseases including cataracts, macular degeneration, and others, which can be a threat to vision. Just like the real sun, tanning beds pose a serious risk of overexposure to UV.
Selecting UV Protective Sunglasses
To guard your eyes from harmful UV rays, you should be careful to only purchase sunglasses that block 100 percent of ultraviolet radiation. Look for shades labeled ''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).
The size of your sunglasses is also important. Wraparound sunglasses can block dangerous UV light from coming in through the sides and back of the frame.
People whose work or recreation involves lengthy exposure to sunlight are at the highest risk for damage to their eyes. UV can be bounced off of surfaces such as snow, water, and white sand and poses the most threat from 10 am to 3 pm and during the summer. UV radiation levels increase nearer to the equator and at high altitudes. It's recommended that you consult with an eye doctor and to be aware of the risks for UV exposure. Simply putting on your sunglasses can make a world of difference for your precious eyes.