May is UV awareness month. Are you protecting your eyes from UV eye damage?

UV Eye DamageUltraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun not only causes short term damage to the eyes, but it also causes long term cumulative damage as well.  These effects can be magnified by the higher elevation in the Denver area, which places us closer to the sun.

UV Eye Damage – What you should know

There are two types of UV radiation that contribute to damage of the ocular tissues.  UV-A radiation penetrates deeper into the eye, potentially damaging the retina.  Good health of the central portion of the retina, the area called the macula, is essential for viewing small objects and fine detailed print.   Long term UV eye damage to the macula can contribute to macular degeneration, and higher, intense short term levels (i.e. eclipse viewing or sun staring) can cause permanent damage in the form of solar retinopathy.

CataractUV-B radiation is absorbed by the anterior structures of the eye.  Long term cumulative damage from this type of UV radiation contributes to the formation of cataracts.  In the short term, this type of UV radiation can cause a very painful corneal sunburn, called photokeratitis.  This type of UV eye damage commonly occurs from reflective surfaces like water and snow in unprotected eyes.

UV radiation also contributes two types of growth that form on the surface of the eye, pterygium and pinguecula.  UV radiation also causes basal cell carcinoma, the most common type of eyelid cancer.

UV Eye Damage Prevention

UV Eye Damage PreventionSo what do we recommend?  Both adults and children should always wear sunglasses with 99% to 100% UV-A and UV-B protection outdoors during all seasons of the year.   Look for wrap-around sunglasses that provide 99% to 100% UV-A and UV-B protection.  Wide brimmed hats help to minimize exposure from sources above us, but do not provide protection from reflective surfaces like snow and water, so should be used in conjunction with sunglasses for maximum protection.  You can also minimize your risk for UV exposure by staying indoors during peak sun hours, between 10 am and 3 pm.

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