The month of July is recognized as UV Safety Month by the World Council of Optometry. Although this observance is primarily recognized in the United States, understanding how UV light affects our vision is nevertheless important everywhere, particularly during the sunny summer season. We’ve put together this quick reference guide to help our patients understand how UV affects vision and how we can protect ourselves from the adverse effects of UV exposure.
What is UV light?
UV light – short for ultraviolet light – is a form of electromagnetic radiation that is invisible to the human eye. UV radiation is just one form of radiation that is measured on a scientific scale called the electromagnetic spectrum (EM). There are various forms of EM energy that can come from a variety of sources – such as x-rays, microwaves, infrared, cell phones, etc. UV rays lie in the middle of the spectrum, between high-energy/high-frequency radiation like x-rays, and low-energy/low-frequency radiation, such as radio waves.
What are the main sources of UV radiation?
The main source of UV radiation exposure is sunlight. The strength of UV rays coming from the sun is higher in certain conditions, including:
- During the summer months
- Between 10 am – 4 pm
- Living near the equator
- Being in higher altitudes
- In conditions where there are surfaces that UV rays can reflect off of, such as water and snow
Exposure to UV radiation, however, doesn’t derive only from sunlight. There are artificial sources of UV rays as well, which include, but aren’t limited to:
- Tanning beds
- Black-light lamps
- Some halogen, fluorescent, and incandescent lights
- Certain types of lasers
- Plasma torches & welding arcs
How does UV light affect your eyes and vision?
Excessive exposure to UV light can increase your risk for several eye conditions, some of which include:
- Cataracts & Macular degeneration
- Pterygium & Pinguecula
- Eyelid cancer
Symptoms of UV Light Exposure
Symptoms related to significant UV exposure, known as UV keratitis, may not start for 6 to 12 hours. Some of the symptoms include:
- Eye pain
- Sensitivity to light
- A sensation of a foreign body in the eye
How To Protect Yourself
The first measure that you can take to protect yourself from the detrimental effects of UV radiation is to always adhere to proper protocols when outdoors. The most important thing to remember is to never look directly at the sun. This applies across all conditions, including during times where the sun appears dimmer or during events such as a solar eclipse. Additionally, it is important to note that clouds don’t block out all UV light, so UV protection protocols should be taken even during cloudy or overcast days.
The second most important measure to protect yourself from UV radiation is to wear protective sunglasses outdoors. It is proven that using suitable protective glasses outdoors can prevent or limit ultraviolet damage to the eye. It’s therefore highly advised that you own a pair of quality sunglasses – particularly ones that provide 100% UV or UV400 protection or block both UV-A and UV-B rays. It is also important to use proper eye protection for indoor contexts as well, such as during the use of tanning beds (should be avoided completely due to risk of skin cancer) and for industry professionals that work around xenon, plasma torches, welding arcs, etc.
In addition to wearing sunglasses and other forms of eye protection, you can further protect yourself by wearing a hat or visor.
How We Can Help Safeguard Your Vision
We are committed to ensuring the best outcomes for our patients’ eyesight and retinal health. Having regular eye examinations is a good way to monitor the condition of your eyes and vision, and to begin to employ any necessary interventions in case you are affected by any of the conditions related to UV light exposure.
We are a trusted source of quality sunglasses that are rated to block 99 to 100 percent of both UV-A and UV-B rays. All prescription sunglasses are polarized, to provide the clearest, most comfortable vision, reducing glare and light sensitivity. Contact us today to book an eye examination or to view our extensive selection of quality sunglasses. During this time, we pre-book all frame fittings and disinfect all frames after patient interactions for everyone’s safety and comfort. We look forward to serving you.