May has been designated as UV Awareness Month to bring attention to the damage ultraviolet radiation can do to your eyes and vision. With summer just around the corner, it is especially important to get in the habit of protecting your eyes from harmful UV rays while enjoying outdoor activities.
What is UV radiation?
UV radiation is most commonly produced by the sun in three main forms:
- UVA: longest wavelengths and can penetrate deeper into your skin.
- UVB: shorter wavelengths that can only reach the outer layer of skin.
- UVC: absorbed by the ozone layer.
How can UV radiation damage your vision?
Ultraviolet rays can have an adverse effect on your vision causing damage and contributing to the development of some eye conditions. Exposure to UV rays over time can increase your chance of developing macular degeneration and some cataracts. Intense overexposure to the sun can result in photokeratitis, also known as “snow blindness.” Photokeratitis is usually only a temporary condition; you will need to connect with your eye care professional to discuss treatment.
How can you protect your eyes and your vision?
Wearing sunglasses will not automatically protect your eyes from harmful UV rays. Check your sunglasses to ensure that they block UVA and UVB rays and have a rating of UV400 or higher. The UV400 rating will block nearly 100% of UV rays. Using an umbrella or wearing a hat will also help shade your eyes from prolonged exposure to UV rays.