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Red Deer Eye Centre
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Red Deer Eye Centre
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Protecting Your Eyes from UV Light: Why UV Protection is Important to Your Eye Health.

UV radiation can have profound effects on our eyes, from the seemingly benign (ever had an ocular sunburn?) to the tragic (eye cancer). Small investments in UV protection can pay off big long-term.

Alberta gets a lot of sun. As we transition from spring to summer, and people spend more time enjoying the warm weather, we feel it important to remind people to be mindful of their eyes.

In our last blog post, “Sunglasses and Their UV Rating: What It Means for Your Eyes”, we talked about how sunglasses are rated for UV protection. We also talked a little bit about UV radiation, briefly touching on the impacts they can have on our eyes. We’re going to expand on those points here.

How UVA and UVB Radiation Affects Our Eyes

There are three types of UV rays:

  • UVA and UVB, which are both known to have damaging effects on our eyes;
  • UVC, which (thankfully) gets filtered out by our atmosphere

UVA Radiation and the Eye

UVA radiation can pass through the cornea, reaching the lens and retina. In high doses (such as going for a long bike ride without sunglasses), you may experience a condition called photokeratitis (essentially, a sunburn of the eye).

Severe photokeratitis, also called “snow blindness”, is often the result of UV light reflecting off of snow. If you’ve ever gone skiing and come home with sunburns, UV light is why. Snow blindness causes a temporary, but painful, loss of vision.

UVA radiation has also been shown to assist in the development of cataracts as well as macular degeneration.

UVB Radiation and the Eye

UVB radiation is what causes the skin to produce melanin (aka, giving you a tan). UVB light has been shown to stimulate the development of cataracts, as well as other serious eye conditions (including cancer of the eye).

Your cornea absorbs most UVB rays.

Protecting Our Eyes from UV Light

Now that we have an understanding of how UV rays can harm us, it’s important to understand how to protect our eyes.

Eyeglasses

Most eyeglass lenses are rated at UV 400 protection. This means they block wavelengths of light up to 400 nanometres, which is somewhere between 99% and 100% of UV rays.

Remember, a lens does not need to be tinted in order to offer UV protection.

Sunglasses

Throwing on a pair of UV-blocking sunglasses is a great way to look good and protect your eyes when enjoying the great outdoors. Be mindful that not all sunglasses are rated to block 100% of UV light, though all sunglasses we carry are.

Hats

A hat or visor is an easy way to help protect your eyes against UV light. Make sure the one you’re wearing has a brim sufficiently large so as to actually offer some level of protection.

Common Sense

It goes without saying, but never look directly at the sun. The high intensity light and UV rays can cause lasting permanent damage to your retina.

Written by Tom Lampard

Dr. Lampard graduated from optometry at Pacific University in Oregon in 1981. He and his wife Lorraine have three grown children, all born and raised in Red Deer. Tom enjoys cycling, curling, cross country and downhill skiing, and golfing. He also keeps busy volunteering for the United Way, has been a chairman of the Alberta College of Optometrists, and director of the Alberta Association of Optometrists.

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