It's a fact that basically everybody is exposed to UV rays. However, the dangers of years of exposure to these unsafe rays are rarely thought through, and the majority of people take little action to shield their eyes, even when they're planning on being exposed to the sun for many hours. Being exposed to too much UV is unsafe and irreversible, and may cause more than a few severe, sight-damaging diseases later on in life. Therefore, ongoing protection from UV rays is extremely important.
UV radiation, which comes mostly from the sun, is made up of 2 types of harmful rays: UVA and UVB. Even though only small amounts of UVA and UVB light enter the inner eye, the ocular cells are extremely vulnerable to the damaging effects of their rays. Even in the short term, small amounts of exposure may cause sunburn of the eye, also known as photokeratitis. When UVB rays enter the cornea, the surrounding cells are destroyed, and this can be expressed as pain, blurred vision or temporary blindness. UVA rays can actually enter the eye more deeply, causing harm to the retina. After several years, being exposed to UV rays may be responsible for substantial damage to eye sight. Out of the 20 million people suffering from cataracts, about 20 percent of cases are due to long-term UV exposure.
One of the best ways to guard your eyes from UV rays is through the use of high quality sunglasses. Ensure that your sunglasses or regular glasses block both UVA and UVB rays completely. Wearing an unsatisfactory pair of sunglasses can actually be more harmful than using nothing at all. Basically, when your sunglasses offer no UV protection, you're actually getting more UV rays. Such sunglasses tend to reduce the light, which causes the iris to open and let even more light in. And this means that more UV will be hitting your retina. Always be sure that your sunglasses provide maximum protection against UV.
Wearing a large hat or baseball cap can also protect you from about fifty percent of UV rays. These hats may also limit UV rays that reach the eyes from above or around glasses.
Years of exposure to UV rays can also result in an abnormal tissue growth on the eye, known as pterygium. This is a slim, wedge-shaped tissue growth with blood vessels that appear over the white part on the surface of the eye. In addition to being aesthetically unsightly, a pterygium can irritate the eye, and can even change the curve of the eyeball, which leads to astigmatism. If the pterygium starts to grow over the cornea, it can damage vision and may need to be surgically removed. Because pterygia are the result of long-term UV exposure, it's totally avoidable.
Talk to your eye care professional about the various UV protection options, which include fixed tint sunglasses, adaptive lenses and polarized lenses.