We take extra precautions and care every day to keep our eyes protected from anything that can harm it. Some of our actions are voluntary, while others are reflexes ingrained in the body. What we miss out on is the dangers of Ultraviolet rays. However vigilant we might be in keeping this vulnerable part of our body safe, the silent threat of too much UV exposure is often forgotten.
Since the awareness in regards to this is lacking, here are the types of UV rays and how they affect eyesight:
This the type that has a longer wavelength, is usually penetrative and can damage the macula in your retina. It often damages the central vision of an individual.
This is the type that has a shorter wavelength, is usually on the surface level, damaging the cornea and lens. Despite being on the surface mostly, the harm caused by UV-B is far more than that done by UV-A.
Eye problems and disorders caused by exposure to UV rays
A clouding of your eye’s lens, leading to blurred or blocked vision, is called a cataract. It is the leading cause of blindness in India and the world. One of the many reasons behind the development of a cataract is the eye’s exposure to UV rays. Cataract forms when proteins in the lens scramble, tangle and assimilate pigments that cloud it. This whole process is heightened by the presence of UV rays, UV-B in particular. According to WHO, out of the millions of cataracts that happen every year, about twenty per-cent are caused due to UV radiation.
The abnormal growth from the whites of your eye, the conjunctiva, is called a Pterygium. It can also involve the cornea and become more damaging to your vision. This condition is promoted by extended exposure to UV rays, the severity of which can be increased. In worse cases, this growth tends to be inflamed. Pterygium can be a hassle because continued exposure to UV radiation can make it recur even after surgical removal.
A deterioration of the central region of the retina, the macula is called macular degeneration. It is the area which controls the sharpness of your vision. Since it is a disorder that progresses with age, it is one of the leading causes of vision loss in older people. The sunburn caused by UV rays affects the lens, cornea and retina of your eye. Thus, UV radiation also significantly adds up to the reasons for age-related macular degeneration.
As mentioned above, UV radiation causes burns on various parts of the eye. The sunburns and subsequent inflammation of the cornea are called Photokeratitis. A severe version of this is snow blindness that is often experienced by climbers, skiers and other people who spend a lot of time in higher altitudes with higher levels of UV radiation that is reflected in the snow too. Both Photokeratitis and snow blindness are painful despite not being long term problems.
Cancers in and around the eyes are often linked to higher UV exposures. Melanoma, a type of cancer caused mainly due to UV radiation, is the most common malignant cancer occurring in the eyeballs. It is treated through surgical removal. Similarly, Basal Cell Carcinoma, a type of skin cancer also attributed to UV radiation, is often seen developing on the eyelids.
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The pupil of your eye is built to function in a way that it controls the entry of light, including the sun rays, in your eyes. It works as a natural safety measure against overexposure to UV rays, but it is not enough. Try to avoid going out during peak sun hours or use goggles and hats when out in the sun. Lastly, go through timely eye check-ups to stay updated about your eye health.