While most are aware of the damage the sun can cause to unprotected skin, fewer know that long term exposure to this increased level of ultraviolet (UV) light can cause a number of conditions that could adversely affect your eyesight. At Georgia Eye Physicians and Surgeons your eye health is important and educating our patients about how to protect their eyes is a top priority for Dr. William Segal and Dr. Marc Lay.
Short term exposure to excessive amounts of UV radiation can produce an effect called photokeratitis, which can be equated to sunburn of the eye. Photokeratitis usually begins to manifest about 6 to 12 hours after exposure and causes the eyes to feel gritty, as though there were sand or dust blown into them. They may appear red and exhibit extreme sensitivity to light and excessive tearing. Fortunately this condition usually lasts less than 48 hours and rarely causes permanent damage to the eyes.
Long term exposure to UV radiation, however, may be far more serious. Exposure to even small doses of UV radiation over a period of many years increases the risk of developing a cataract and may even cause damage to the retina, possibly leading to macular degeneration later in life. Moreover, the damage is cumulative, meaning that it slowly adds up over the years, and since the human body cannot actually see or feel ultraviolet radiation, it is possible for you to be experiencing damage without even knowing it. UV radiation is not felt as heat on the skin, and 80-85% of UV radiation passes through cloud cover, so even on a cool, cloudy day, your eyes can suffer from UV exposure.
Since it is still not clear exactly how much exposure will cause damage, the American Optometric Association (AOA) recommends wearing sunglasses that block out 99-100% of both UV-A and UV-B radiation, screen out 75-90% of visible light, and are matched in color and free of distortion and imperfection.
If you have any additional questions about your vision or the health of your eyes, please contact us today to make an appointment. Be sure to follow Georgia Eye Physicians and Surgeons on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+ for more tips for healthy eyes.