Most people take precautions in the sun to protect their skin but many may not realise how harmful UV radiation is to the eyes. There are 3 types of UV radiation, we are mainly concerned with UV-A and UV-B as UV-C is absorbed by the ozone layer. The other problem is exposure to UV radiation in environments where we do not expect it such as sunbed use or strong ground reflection from snow, water and sand.
Short bursts of high intensity UV ration can cause acute anterior eye problems, welders will complain of “arc eye” after suffering a flash. This results in acute photokeratitis and photoconjunctivitis which is essentially sunburn to the very sensitive tissues of the eyes and lids. Symptoms of intense pain, redness and inflammation follow after a few hours. But it’s not just welders that are at risk of acute problems, snowblindess is an extreme form of photokeratitis, t sometimes occurs in skiers and climbers who experience extreme UV levels due to high altitude conditions and very strong ground reflection – fresh snow can reflect up to 80 per cent of incident UV radiation.
For the rest of us, chronic UV exposure is more of a problem. Complications such as pterigium, cataract and age related macular degeneration are all linked to prolonged UV exposure. Furthermore, melanoma is the most common malignant tumour of the eyeball itself and the lids are a very common location for basal cell carcinomas.
It’s not clear how much UV exposure will cause damage, so when you spend time outside wear a quality pair of sun glasses and a wide brimmed hat.
Good quality sunglasses should:
- block out 99% to 100% of both UV-A and UV-B radiation;
- screen out 75% to 90% of visible light;
- have lenses that are perfectly matched in colour and free of distortion and imperfection;
- have lenses that are grey for proper colour recognition.
Finally, don’t forget protection for children and teenagers. They typically spend more time in the sun than adults.
At Jones & Murphy we have a wide range of high quality sunglasses from well known names that will not only give you the UV protection you need but also give you that great look for the summer! Why no pop in and try a few on.
Sources: American Optometric Association, World Health Organisation, RNIB