It's a fact: almost everybody is regularly exposed to UV rays. Even though this is the case, the risks of many years of exposure to these unsafe rays are rarely thought about, and the majority of people take little action to shield their eyes, even when they're expecting to be out in the sun for many hours. Overexposure to UV is unsafe and cannot be reversed, and can also cause a number of serious, sight-damaging diseases in older age. This means that ongoing protection from UV rays is vital for everyone.
There are two types of UV rays: UV-A and UV-B, and both are unsafe. Even though only small amounts of UVA and UVB light hit the inner eye, the ocular tissue is extremely vulnerable to the damaging effects of their rays. Even in the short term, small amounts of exposure can easily result in sunburn of the eye, also known as photokeratitis. When UVB rays enter the cornea, the surrounding cells are significantly damaged, and this can be expressed as blurred vision, pain or in serious cases, even temporary blindness. UVA rays actually enter the eye more deeply, which causes damage to the retina. After several years, exposure to UV rays can cause significant damage to the eyes and vision.
One of the best ways to protect your eyes from UV rays is with good sunglasses. Ensure that your sunglasses or regular eyewear block 100% of both UVA and UVB rays. Wearing an unsatisfactory pair of sunglasses can sometimes be even worse than having nothing at all. Basically, when sunglasses don't give you any UV protection, you're actually getting more UV rays. The inadequate sunglasses generally block some of the light, forcing the iris to open and let more light in. This means that more UV will hit the retina. Always be sure that your sunglasses give enough UV protection.
Wearing a broad brimmed hat or cap can also protect you from roughly fifty percent of UV rays. A brimmed hat or cap may also reduce UV rays that hit your eyes from above or around glasses.
Long-term exposure to UV rays can also cause an abnormal tissue growth on the eye, which is called pterygium. This is a slim, wedge-shaped tissue growth with blood vessels that spread over the white part of the eye's surface. In addition to being aesthetically unappealing, a pterygium can be uncomfortable, and can even alter the contour of the eyeball, which leads to astigmatism. If the pterygium begins to grow over the cornea, it can affect vision and may need to be surgically removed. Because pterygia are caused by long-term UV exposure, it is totally preventable.
Talk to your optometrist about the various UV protection options, which include adaptive lenses, polarized lenses and fixed tint sunglasses.