Ultraviolet (UV) rays are invisible radiation that comes from sunlight. It causes degradation that affects many substances — it causes fading on fabrics, among other things — including human cells. In today’s post, your local eye doctor at Joel H McGahen, OD shares known eye conditions that can result from excessive exposure to sunlight.
1. Photokeratitis — The cornea is the clear outer covering of the eye, and works like its protective “skin”. As the outermost part of the eye, the cornea is vulnerable to photokeratitis, or sunburn caused by UV radiation. Photokeratitis is characterized by symptoms such as pain or redness in the eyes, excessive tearing and swelling. Severe symptoms include temporary loss of vision.
2. Cataracts — Cataracts are characterized by clouding of the lenses of the eyes. People who suffer from cataracts describe it as like seeing through a foggy window. Cataracts are caused by many factors and some types are hereditary. While UV radiation isn’t among these factors, it can accelerate cataract development. There are contact lenses that feature UV protection, however, the best protection against UV radiation is wearing sunglasses with UVC, if not UVB, rating.
3. Pinguecula and pterygium — Pinguecula and pterygium are growths on the sclera or the whites of the eyes, and are commonly known as “surfer’s eye”. Pinguecula is a yellowish, raised growth on the conjunctiva (the clear coating on the white part of the eye), and usually happens on the side closest to the nose. Pterygium is a growth of fleshy tissue that may start as pinguecula, and may impact your vision. Both are caused by exposure to UV radiation, and can be prevented by wearing proper UV protection and using eye drops when the eye feels dry.
4. Macular degeneration — Macular degeneration is an eye disease that’s commonly associated with aging. The macula is the part of the eye that senses light. When macular degeneration starts setting in, the center of the field of vision may begin to appear blurry, distorted or dark. Exposure to UV radiation can affect the macula the same way it does the lenses: it isn’t the primary cause, but it can exacerbate its effects.
In addition to wearing protective eyewear, we recommend visiting our low vision specialist at Dr. Joel McGahen for an eye exam. For more information on how to protect your eyes from UV damage, give us a call at (717) 470-7496. You can also fill out our contact form to schedule an appointment. We serve clients in Shippensburg and Greencastle, PA, as well as the surrounding communities in Pennsylvania.