Many people know about the damage that ultraviolet (UV) rays can have on the skin, from sunburns to skin cancers. But many may not know about the damage it may cause to the eyes. That is why the Ohio Affiliate of Prevent Blindness has declared May as UV (ultraviolet) Awareness Month. The goal is to help educate the public on the dangers of UV and steps to take to protect vision today and in the future.
UV damage to the eyes can be immediate, including a condition called “ultraviolet keratitis.” According to the Cleveland Clinic, this occurs from exposure to ultraviolet rays that can temporarily damage the cornea (the clear portion of the eye in front of the pupil) and the conjunctiva, a layer of cells covering the inside of the eyelid and the whites of the eye. Symptoms, such as eye pain, tears, blurred vision, light sensitivity and seeing halos, may last from 6 to 24 hours, but they usually disappear within 48 hours.
However, some UV damage may be cumulative, leading to cataract or macular degeneration later in life. People who work or play in the sun for long periods of time are at the greatest risk. Parents should make sure that children are wearing the proper sun protection at all times when outdoors.
When purchasing sunglasses, Prevent Blindness also recommends buying sunglasses that:
- reduce glare
- block 100 percent of UV-A and UV-B rays
- are comfortable to wear
- do not distort colors
- are safe for outdoor activities, such as sports
Sunglasses should be worn in conjunction with a brimmed hat. Wrap-around sunglasses are best as they protect not only the eyes but the delicate skin around the eyes as well.
“The best way to protect your eyes, and your family’s eyes from UV, is to talk with an eyecare professional. By discussing your unique needs, he or she can provide guidance on the best ways to protect your eyes today and help ensure healthy vision for years to come,” said Sherry Williams, President &CEO of Prevent Blindness, Ohio Affiliate.
For more information on the dangers of UV exposure and how to choose the best UV protection, please visit the Prevent Blindness dedicated Web page at http://www.preventblindness.org/protect-your-eyes-sun or Prevent Blindness, Ohio Affiliate at call (800) 301-2020.