Ultraviolet (UV) light is more common than what you thought. It can have several lesser-known but frightening effects on the eye that are important that you should be aware of.
1. Contribution to Cataracts:
UV light, particularly UV-B and UV-A rays, can contribute to the development of cataracts over time. Cataracts are characterized by the clouding of the eye's natural lens, leading to vision impairment. Prolonged exposure to UV light, especially without proper eye protection, increases the risk of cataract formation.
More than half of the US population will get a cataract before the age of 80 has cataracts because of the exposure to UV light. Fortunately, surgery can remove the cataract and restore relatively clear vision.
2. Increase in Macular Degeneration Risk:
Prolonged and unprotected exposure to UV light has been linked to an increased risk of age-related macular degeneration (AMD). AMD is a leading cause of vision loss in older adults and affects the macula, the part of the retina responsible for central vision. UV light may contribute to the formation of harmful molecules in the retina, potentially accelerating the development of AMD.
This is why your optometrist will take pictures of the back of the eye when you visit to make sure you do not have early stages of this incurable eye disease.
3. Photokeratitis from Artificial Sources:
While many people associate UV exposure with natural sunlight, it's important to note that artificial sources of UV light, such as welding arcs, tanning beds, and certain industrial lamps, can also pose significant risks to the eyes. Prolonged exposure to high-intensity UV light from these sources can lead to a painful condition known as photokeratitis, which is essentially a sunburn of the cornea. Symptoms include redness, tearing, pain, and temporary vision loss.
To protect your eyes from the harmful effects of UV light, it's crucial to wear sunglasses or get transition lens that provide proper UV protection and, when necessary, use protective eyewear in environments where artificial UV sources are present.