UV And Your Eyes

UV And Your Eyes

You will usually find an ultraviolet (UV) rating on most weather reports issued by the Met Office, and it’s well worth following them or at the very least paying attention to them during the summer months, particularly at the moment with our current hot spell.

The UV index is there to educate and inform us so we can choose to protect ourselves from the potentially harmful effects of the sun.

There are a number of serious eye conditions which can result from too much exposure to the sun’s rays.  Extended exposure has been linked to damage including cataracts, pingueculae, pterygia and photokeratitis.

The Dangers Of Ultraviolet Radiation To Your Eyes

Over exposure to one type of ultraviolet radiation, UVA, has been linked to the development of certain types of cataracts.

As another example, ultraviolet rays are thought to contribute to causing pingueculae and pterygia. These growths on the eye’s surface can become unsightly and cause corneal problems as well as blurred vision.

In high short-term doses, ultraviolet rays can also cause photokeratitis, a painful inflammation of the cornea also known as “Snow blindness”.

UV Index Indicator

Surprisingly, cloud cover doesn’t significantly reduce UV levels. Risk of UV exposure can still be quite high even on hazy or overcast days. This is because ultraviolet is an invisible radiation and not a visible light, so it can penetrate clouds.

The UV Index predicts each day’s ultraviolet radiation levels on a simple 1 to 11+ scale.  In addition to publishing the UV Index daily, the Met Office also issues a UV Alert when the level of solar ultraviolet radiation that day is expected to be unusually high.

Protecting yourself

To best protect your eyes from the sun’s harmful ultraviolet and high-energy visible (HEV) rays, its advised to wear good quality sunglasses when outdoors.  Sunglasses that block 100 percent of UV rays typically will also absorb most HEV rays. Your eye care specialist can help you choose the best sunglasses for your needs.  To also protect as much of the delicate skin around your eyes as possible, its advised to choose sunglasses with large lenses or a close-fitting wraparound style.  The amount of UV protection sunglasses provide is unrelated to the colour and darkness of the lenses.

Remember… the College of Optometists recommends that everyone buying sunglasses needs to check they have the CE Mark and British Standard BS EN ISO 12312-1:2013, which ensures that the sunglasses offer a safe level of UV protection.

And don’t forget to take measures to protect yourself against sunburn: use a broad-spectrum sunscreen of SPF 15+, spend time in the shade, and cover up.