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Ultraviolet Light is Something to Keep an Eye on Even After Summer

Ultraviolet light. It’s something that many people rarely think about, if ever. And yet, we are all exposed to UV regularly. A few months ago, as we headed into the summer months, many of us began to pay more attention to our sunscreen use. As the sun became brighter and hotter, we may have donned sunglasses while running errands or sitting by the pool. These habits should not change as we head into Fall. Even through the winter months, it is important to know that UV light is present and can be doing damage to important structures.

What is UV Light?

Sunshine contains three types of ultraviolet radiation. These forms of light vary in strength. UVC, the most intense ultraviolet radiation, fortunately only exists outside of our atmosphere. The only people who need to worry about UVC are those who travel into space. What we need to be aware of here on Earth are UVA and UVB rays. These forms of ultraviolet radiation are responsible for sunburns as well as premature aging and damage to the eyes if we’re not careful. In fact, the least intense of the three UV lights, UVA, can cause the most damage to the eyes. This is because UVA can pass through the cornea (where it causes damage) to land on the retina at the back of the eye (where it causes more damage. UVB, right in the middle, also damages the cornea.

What Does UV Damage Look Like?

Most of the time, we don’t notice the damage the UV light does to the eyes. Only in extreme cases, such as skiing without sunglasses, might temporary symptoms occur. This is often referred to as snow blindness. A “burn” to the cornea from intense UV reflection can cause temporary redness, tearing, blurry vision, and sensitivity to light. The eyes may also hurt for a day or two. As uncomfortable as obvious ocular sunburn can be, it is the unnoticed damage that may present the most concern. Over time, exposure to UV light without sunglasses can significantly increase the risk of cataracts and macular degeneration, conditions that can diminish eyesight and even cause vision loss.

Shenandoah LASIK and Cataract Center in Winchester, VA offers comprehensive ophthalmology and optometry services. To schedule a visit with us, call (540) 722-6200.

Posted in: Eye Health

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