Virtually everyone is exposed to UV rays on a daily basis. Even though this is the case, the risks related to long-term exposure to these unsafe rays aren't really thought about, and many barely take enough action to protect their eyes, even if they're expecting to be exposed to the sun for long periods of time. Being exposed to too much UV is unsafe and cannot be reversed, and may also lead to a number of serious, vision-stealing conditions later on in life. This means that ongoing protection from UV rays is a must for everyone.
UV radiation, originating mostly from the sun, consists of 2 categories of damaging rays: UVA and UVB. Even though only tiny measures of UVA and UVB light hit the inner eye, the ocular tissue is incredibly susceptible to the harmful effects of their rays. Even in the short term, small amounts of exposure can easily cause sunburnt eyes, often referred to as photokeratitis. When the cornea receives UVB rays, the outer cells are severely damaged, which can be expressed as blurred vision, pain or temporary blindness. UVA rays can penetrate much deeper into the eye, which causes damage to the retina.
A really great way to shield your eyes from UV rays is with good sunglasses. Check that your sunglasses or regular glasses block 100 percent of UVA and UVB rays. An insufficient pair of sunglasses can be even worse than using no sunglasses at all. Consider this: if your sunglasses don't give you any UV protection, you are actually being exposed to more UV rays. Such sunglasses tend to block some of the light, which causes the iris to open and let even more light in. This means that more UV will be hitting the retina. Always check to make sure your sunglasses offer maximum UV protection.
Wearing a large sunhat or baseball cap will also block roughly fifty percent of UV rays. These hats may also limit UV rays that hit the eyes from above or around glasses.
Extended exposure to UV rays can also cause an abnormal tissue growth on the eye, known as pterygium. This is a slim, wedge-shaped tissue growth with blood vessels that grow over the white part of the eye's surface. In addition to being visually unsightly, a pterygium can cause discomfort, and can even affect the curve of the eyeball, causing astigmatism. If the pterygium starts to grow over the cornea, it can blur or obstruct vision and may need to be surgically removed. Because pterygia are the result of extended UV exposure and windy conditions, it is completely preventable.
Talk to your eye care professional about all of your UV protection choices, including fixed tint sunglasses, adaptive lenses and polarized lenses.