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Protect your eyes from the sun’s UV rays

  • Published
  • By Capt. Bobby Sarivannara, 6th Operational Medical Readiness Squadron optometrist

Summer is here and the importance of ultraviolet (UV) protection, especially for our eyes, cannot be overstated. 

UV-A penetrates easily through the skin. Although it is not as strong as UV-B, it is more prevalent and poses more of a risk to the inner layers of the skin and eyes. UV-B affects the outer layer of our skin and can result in sunburns, blistering, and possibly skin cancer.  

The front parts of the eye, including the cornea and conjunctiva, are the most affected by UV light. 

Some conditions that may affect the eyes include:

Photokeratitis is a painful, temporary condition resulting from exposure to ultraviolet rays. Similar to a sunburn of the skin, it can be associated with mild to severe pain. Symptoms begin within 8-24 hours and may include sensitivity to light, excessive tearing, and, in extreme cases, temporary vision loss.

A pinguecula can result from chronic sun exposure. Presenting as a white or yellow raised area over the white part of the eye, it is similar to a callus. A pinguecula is usually permanent, and can become intermittently irritated or inflamed, to the point of requiring treatment for a lifetime.

A pterygium is similar to a pinguecula that has extended onto the cornea. With ongoing UV exposure, a pterygium will grow and may lead to corneal scarring and permanent vision loss. Surgery is the only treatment. 

Long-term, continued exposure to ultraviolet rays will eventually cause premature cataracts and macular degeneration, two of the leading causes of blindness worldwide.

To protect your eyes, sunglasses that block 100% of both UVA and UVB rays are recommended by the American Optometric Association.

A good pair of sunglasses can be purchased inexpensively, and are the best way to protect your eyes from the harmful, sometimes permanent, effects of UV light.

For more information, please contact the 6th Operational Medical Readiness Squadron’s Optometry Clinic at 813-827-9102.