Harmful UV: Shedding Some Light on Eye Protection

One of the greatest threats to your eyes is invisible. The scientific evidence is piling up: long-term exposure to invisible ultraviolet radiation can damage our eyes and lead to vision loss. Everyone is at risk, even children.

Dr. Kevin Merkley with the Eye Institute of Utah explains the effects of UV and some solutions for healthier eyes.

The Facts About UV and Your Eyes:

According to the AAO, your eyes never recover from UV exposure. Studies show that exposure to bright sunlight may increase the risk of developing cataracts and age-related macular degeneration, both leading causes of vision loss among older adults. UV exposure, wind and dust can also cause pterygia, benign growths on the eye’s surface. The more exposure to bright light, the greater the chance of developing these eye conditions.

In addition to the damage caused by a lifetime of exposure to bright sun, you need to protect your eyes from acute damage caused by outings on very bright days. Excessive exposure to ultraviolet light reflected off sand, snow, water or pavement can damage the cornea, the eye’s surface. “Sun damage to eyes can occur anytime during the year, not just in the summertime,” said Richard Bensinger, MD, a comprehensive ophthalmologist in Seattle, Wash. “Although July is designated as UV Safety Month, you should protect your eyes from damage all year long.”


UVA is most intense in the morning and can penetrate glass and skin

UVB is most intense midday 10 a.m.- 2 p.m. and may be most dangerous

Simple Solutions:

Similar to sunburn on your skin, corneal ultraviolet injuries are painful, but usually heal quickly. Take these steps to protect your eyes from the sun:

• Select sunglasses that block ultraviolet rays. Don’t be deceived by color or cost. The ability to block UV light is not dependent on the darkness of the lens or the price tag.

• Make sure your sunglasses block 99 percent or 100 percent of UV rays and UV-B rays.

• Ideally, your sunglasses should wrap all the way around to your temples, so the sun’s rays can’t enter from the side.

• In addition to your sunglasses, wear a broad-rimmed hat to protect your eyes. Don’t be fooled by a cloudy day. The sun’s rays can pass through the haze and thin clouds.

• Even if you wear contacts with UV protection, remember your sunglasses.

• Sunglasses should be worn whenever outside, and it’s especially important to wear sunglasses in the early afternoon and in higher altitudes, where UV light is more intense.

o July is also recognized as Eye Injury Prevention Month. For this reason, a focus is placed on protecting your eyes in various environments, namely the workplace.

• Eye injuries of all types occur at a rate of more than 2,000 per day. In particular, an estimated 1,000 eye injuries occur in American workplaces alone. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) found that almost 70% of the eye injuries studied occur from falling or flying objects, or sparks striking the eye.

• The best ways to prevent injury to the eye is to always wear the appropriate eye protection. Surprisingly, the BLS reports that approximately three out of every five workers injured were either not wearing eye protection at the time of the accident or wearing the wrong kind of eye protection for the job. To be effective, eyewear must fit properly and be designed to effectively protect workers while they work. It is estimated that over 90% of eye injuries are preventable with the use of proper safety eyewear. The Occupational Safety Health Administration, OSHA, has standards that require employers to provide their workers with the appropriate eye protection.

Signs of Possible Eye Damage:

1. Abrasions on the eye

2. Red, irritated, inflamed eyes

3. eye growth that may form over the eye that causes the eye to become red and swollen

4. May even cause Glaucoma or Muscular Degeneration

How Often Should Your Eyes Be Checked?

• Adults between the ages of 40 to 65 should have an eye exam every two to four years.

• Adults over the age of 65 should have an eye exam at least every one to two years.

To learn more, give The Eye Institute of Utah a call at (801) 263-5700 or visit on line at www.theeyeinstitute.com

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