The majority of Americans are familiar with the threats of Ultraviolet (UV) radiation to your skin, (such as sunburn and skin cancer) and the need for using sunscreen and avoiding direct contact with the sun particularly during the blazing summer months. What is less known is that UV and other harmful types of radiation from the sun are also a threat to your eyes.
If you often go out without sunglasses, think about this: Prolonged absorption of the sun's UV rays has been seen to be a cause of eye damage.
Risks of UV Eye Exposure
Excessive UV exposure over a short amount of time is known to lead to a ''sunburn of the eye'', leading to pain, blurry vision or even temporary blindness. In the long run, UV exposure can cause more threatening eye diseases such as cataracts, macular degeneration, and others, 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.
Selecting UV Protective Sunglasses
To guard your eyes from harmful UV rays, sunglasses should completely block all UV rays. Look for shades labeled ''UV 400'', which indicates that they prevent both UVA and UVB rays from entering your eyes (400 refers to the wavelength of light in nanometers).
You also want to choose sunglasses with full eye coverage. Sunglasses with side protection can prevent harmful ultraviolet light from coming in through the rear of the sunglasses.
Those whose work or recreation involves extensive exposure to light from the sun are at greatest risk for damage to their eyes. UV can be bounced off of bright areas such as snow, water, and white sand and presents the greatest threat during the midday hours and during the summer. UV radiation levels increase nearer to the equator and at high altitudes. It's important to speak to an optometrist and to be aware of the risks for UV exposure. The simple act of wearing your sunglasses can make a world of difference for your precious vision.