While exposure to UV rays from the sun happens year-round, summer is the time when most people ramp up their UV protection. While a majority of people are concerned about UV exposure to the eyes (75 percent, according to a survey from The Vision Council), fewer understand the specific short- and long-term risks to their eye health.
Short-term effects of UV exposure
Photokeratosis, or sunburn of the cornea. Only 31 percent of those surveyed know unprotected UV exposure can lead to sunburned eyes. The symptoms — itching, redness, pain, and blurred vision — are temporary, but the condition can be so debilitating as to last for up to three days.
Pterygium. This condition is sometimes called “surfer’s eye,” as it is linked to time spent in sunny, windy and sandy environments like the beach. Characterized by a growth on the surface of the eye often near the nose, it is usually benign. If it is large enough, though, it can affect the shape of the cornea and lead to astigmatism.
Long-term effects of UV exposure
Cataracts. One of the most common eye health issues, cataracts are a leading cause of vision loss in people over age 40. According to Prevent Blindness America, more than 20 million people in the U.S. have cataracts. Unfortunately, only 26 percent of those surveyed by The Vision Council are aware of the link between UV exposure and developing cataracts.
Age-related macular degeneration (AMD). Slightly fewer of those surveyed (21%) know that UV exposure increases the risk for AMD. In fact, research shows that exposure earlier in life contributes more significantly than in later years. Early detection and treatment can slow the progression of this disease, which is the leading cause of blindness in people age 60 and older. Studies support the idea that protecting your eyes from UV exposure can help.
Cancer of the eye, eyelid or surrounding skin. Cancer of the eyeball is rare, but skin cancer around the eye is not. In fact, according to the Skin Cancer Foundation, 10 percent of all skin cancers are on the eyelid. Though most are the malignant basal cell carcinoma, surgery for removal is required.
As you think about your own plan for protecting your eyes from UV exposure, keep in mind that we can help select the best sunglasses to suit your needs. Through June 30, we are offering 20% off sunglasses, which should make finding the right pair easier.