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Ultraviolet Awareness Month – Your Eyes and the Sun


The majority of Americans are aware of the threats of Ultraviolet (UV) radiation to your skin, (including sunburn and skin cancer) and the need for using UV blocking sunscreen and using other protective measures particularly during the blazing summer months. What is less known is that UV and other types of radiation from the sun can also cause severe damage to your eyes.

If you are thinking of going outside without proper eye protection, consider this: Frequent absorption of the sun's ultraviolet radiation has been linked to eye damage.

UV Risks to Eyesight

Exposure to excessive levels of ultraviolet radiation for a short amount of time can lead to photokeratitis which means a ''sunburn of the eye'', which results in pain, blurred vision or even temporary blindness. Long-term ultraviolet exposure can result in more serious eye diseases such as cataracts, macular degeneration, and others, all of which can be a threat to vision. Individuals that come into frequent contact with welding machines, tanning beds and lasers are also at heightened risk of exposure to UV radiation.

UV Eye Protection

To shield your eyes from harmful UV rays, you should look for sunglasses that completely block all UV rays. Look for sunglasses labeled ''UV 400'', which means that they block all UV light from entering your eyes (400 refers to the wavelength of light in nanometers).

The size of your sunglasses is also important. Wraparound sunglasses can prevent harmful ultraviolet rays from entering from the backside of the sunglasses.

Individuals whose work or recreation involves lengthy exposure to sunlight are at greatest risk for UV eye damage. UV can be bounced off of bright surfaces such as snow, water, and white sand and presents the greatest threat during the midday hours and during the summer months. Exposure to UV becomes more substantial nearer to the equator and at high altitudes. It's important to speak to an eye doctor and to know the risks for UV exposure. The simple act of wearing your sunglasses can be the answer to protecting your precious eyesight.