UV light and Your Eyes
Updated: Jul 8, 2020
Dr. Shaminder Dhaliwal, Optometrist, Prairie Eye Care
Did you know that you can get sunburn on your eyes, just like you get sunburn on your skin?!
Well, not really, but it can damage your eyes. Let’s talk about why we always recommend UV protection.
First, what is UV light anyways?
Let’s start with the basics, Ultraviolet (UV) light is a type of light that we as humans, can’t see. (Some bugs such as bumblebee’s can though!) It’s wavelengths are shorter than visible light, and as a general rule of thumb, the shorter the wavelength, the more damage it can do to us.
UV is divided into three categories. UV-C (the shortest), UV-B, and UV-A. Thankfully, nearly all of UV-C (the most harmful) is absorbed by the atmosphere and never reaches us. So, what we need to protect ourselves from is UV-B, and UV-A. Look at your sunscreen, it probably says both words!
So how does UV light affect your eyes?
Now, short doses of sunlight are good, please enjoy the Winnipeg summer and get your Vitamin D! Just like your skin, it’s the chronic long periods of exposure that can cause progressive damage when you aren’t using UV protection.
It can cause faster progression of Cataracts, macular degeneration and something called a pinguecula/pterygium.
Those last ones you might not have heard of so let me give you the quick 101 on them.
Have you ever seen these small yellowish bumps on the white part of someone’s eyes before? That’s a Pinguecula! Chronic UV exposure causes these bumps to form and they actually drawmore blood vessels to the area as well, making your eyes look slightly red at all times in some cases (this is what Michael Jordan has). Now if you continue to let it grow, it can actually grow onto the cornea (clear part of your eye) and impact your vision. It is now known as a Pterygium.
Okay cool, so how can I protect my eyes and keep them white as a pearl?
Wearing UV-protection eye wear in the summer and winter, on a sunny and cloudy day should help do the trick. YES! Even during cloudy days, UV light can still make it through. Some great options are stylish prescription or non-prescription sunglasses with full UV-protection (make sure of this because some sunglasses are just tint!) or something like transition style lenses that go dark when you go outside, and clear when you’re inside will help.
So next time you visit Prairie Eye Care - Winnipeg Optometrists, make sure to ask them if you need UV protection eyewear, and what your options might be. Both the doctor and the optical team will make sure you don’t sunburn your eyes