Both UV rays and blue light rays can cause damage to your eyes. While the harmful effects of these rays are three times greater in the summer than in the winter, you still run a high risk of sustaining serious eye damage if you do not wear eye protection in the winter months. UV and blue light rays can also damage your eyes on overcast and cloudy days.
While all people are at risk of eye damage from prolonged exposure to the sun, several groups face an increased risk. In particular, children under the age of 10 may sustain serious retinal damage from sun exposure. Their eyes are not able to block as much UV radiation as adult eyes can. As a result, it is extremely important that young children wear eye protection at all times when outside in the sun.
Other groups of people at an above-average risk of eye damage from the sun include:
People with retinal disorders
Cataract surgery patients
People taking medications that increase eye sensitivity to sunlight
People with lighter-pigmented eyes
UV radiation is a component of solar radiation, but it can also be given off by artificial sources like welding machines, tanning beds and lasers. Most are aware of the harm UV radiation can do to the skin, but many may not realize that exposure to UV radiation can harm the eyes or that other components of solar radiation can also affect vision.
Eye damage from the sun is cumulative over the course of your life. The more you are exposed to sunlight, the more likely you are to suffer permanent damage to your eyes. Therefore, it is important to always wear eye protection whenever you are outside during the day. Studies have shown that UV rays are strongest between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., so it is especially important to protect your eyes during these hours.
The best way to protect your eyes is to wear sunglasses. However, not all sunglasses will provide you with equal protection from UV and blue light rays. For maximum protection, you should look for sunglasses that:
Block 99-100 percent of UVA and UVB rays
Block blue light rays
Contain large lenses that fit close to your eyes
Also, certain contact lenses can provide additional UV protection.
Wear a hat or cap with a wide brim when outdoors.
Don't forget protection for children and teenagers. They typically spend more time in the sun than adults. Scientific studies and research have shown that exposure to small amounts of UV radiation over a period of many years increases the chance of developing a cataract and may cause damage to the retina, a nerve-rich lining of the eye that is used for seeing. Additionally, chronic exposure to shorter wavelength visible light (i.e. blue and violet light) may also be harmful to the retina.
Be sure to see your doctor of optometry at least every two years for a comprehensive eye examination. It is a good way to monitor your eye health, maintain good vision and keep track of your solar radiation protection needs as well as new advances in eye protection.
If you or someone you know has severe vision loss contact CBA Vision Rehabilitation Services (Chautauqua Blind Association) at 664-6660, serving Chautauqua and Cattaraugus counties.