It's safe to assume that almost everybody is exposed to UV rays on a regular basis. However, the possible dangers of many years of exposure to these unsafe rays aren't really thought about, and most people take little action to protect their eyes, even if they're planning to be out in the sun for an extended period of time. Being exposed to too much UV is dangerous and irreversible, and may cause more than a few serious, vision-stealing conditions in older age. And so, continuing protection from these rays is equally important for everybody.
UV radiation, which comes mostly from the sun, is made up of 2 categories of damaging rays: UV-A and UV-B. Even though only minimal measures of UVA and UVB light reach the inner eye, the eye cells are very vulnerable to the damaging effects of their rays. Intense, short-term of exposure can cause sunburnt eyes, often referred to as photokeratitis. When UVB rays enter the cornea, the outer cells are significantly damaged, and this can cause blurred vision, pain or in serious cases, temporary blindness. UVA rays can actually enter the eye more deeply, causing harm to the retina. After several years, not being protected from UV rays may cause significant and lasting damage to the eyes and vision.
An ideal way to protect your eyes from UV rays is with high quality sunglasses. Check that your sunglasses or regular glasses block 100 percent of UVA and UVB rays. Wearing an unsatisfactory pair of sunglasses can actually be more harmful than wearing no sun protection at all. Basically, when sunglasses offer no protection against UV, you're actually getting more UV rays. The inadequate sunglasses will block some of the light, forcing the iris to open and let more light in. And this means that even more UV will be hitting your retina. Always be sure that your sunglasses offer effective protection against UV.
Wearing a large hat or cap will also protect you from roughly fifty percent of UV rays. A brimmed hat or cap can also reduce UV rays that hit the eyes from above or around glasses.
Years of exposure to UV rays can also lead to an abnormal tissue growth on the eye, which is called pterygium. This is a thin, wedge-shaped tissue growth with blood vessels that grow over the white part of the eye's surface. In addition to being aesthetically unappealing, a pterygium can cause discomfort, and can even change the shape of the eyeball, which will cause astigmatism. If the pterygium starts to grow over the cornea, it can damage vision and may result in surgery. Because pterygia are caused by long-term UV exposure and windy conditions, it is totally preventable.
Speak to your optometrist about the various UV protection options, which include fixed tint sunglasses, adaptive lenses and polarized lenses.