Health

UV Exposure

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Head ShotBBy Kevin A. Rogers, OD
Rogers Regional Eye Center

If you want strong, healthy eyes and clear vision for life, a major step you can take is to protect your eyes from UV radiation.  Wearing proper eye protection from the sun reduces the risk of a number of eye diseases. UV exposure has been linked to a number of eye diseases including macular degeneration and cataracts. Macular degeneration is a condition in which the macula of the eye breaks down, leading to a loss of central vision and is a leading cause of age-related vision loss.  Cataracts occur when the natural lens of the eye becomes clouded, resulting in blurred vision.  The len is responsible for focusing the light that comes into the eye. Cataracts can be treated by a simple surgery to replace the clouded lens with an artificial lens.  Another serious disease that can affect the eyes is skin cancer which can appear on the eyelids or the area around the eyes.  Skin cancer is known to be linked to extended exposure to UV. Pterygium is a growth that forms on the conjunctiva which is a layer over the sclera or the white part of your eye. Sometimes they grow onto the cornea as well. Pterygia are commonly found in individuals who spend a significant amount of time outside in the sun or wind. 
The more time you spend outside, the greater the risk for your eyes, however you can easily minimize this risk with proper protection. Here are a few tips to ensure you are doing what you can to safeguard your eyes: Fully protective sunglasses should block out 99-100% of UV-A and UV-B rays. You can achieve this through purchasing a pair of sunglasses, applying a UV blocking coating to your glasses or opting for photochromic lenses which are eyeglass lenses which turn dark when exposed to sunlight. Most contact lenses will also have UV protection but this is just for the area of the eye covered by the lens. Since UV exposure can enter from the air, the ground or from the sides, wrap-around and large lensed frames can provide added protection. A wide brimmed hat or visor will stop about half of the UV rays from even reaching your eyes as well as reduce the exposure coming in from the top or sides of your sunglass frames. 
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