Are you aware of the good, bad and ugly of what UV (Ultra-Violet) can do to you and your eyes?
The sun’s gorgeous rays provide warmth, enhancing your general feeling of well-being. These rays stimulate blood circulation and make us feel good! UV radiation is important to stimulate the production of vitamin D, which in turn increases calcium and phosphorus absorption from food, crucial role in skeletal development and maintenance, immune function and blood cell formation. However, only 5 to 15 minutes of casual sun exposure two to three times a week during the summer months is sufficient to keep your vitamin D levels high. Less time is needed for those folks living on or near the equator.
Most generally agree, vitamin D formation is easily done especially in the warmer months. Exceptions of very limited sun exposure like housebound elderly or those with heavily pigmented skin. Many countries have even introduced supplements into common food like flour, cereals and milk as a preventative against vitamin D deficiency. Naturally occurring vitamin D is very rare in our diet with the exception of fatty fish and cod liver oil. UV (and the slightly longer wavelengths in the blue spectrum) are important to promote a feeling of wakefulness. NASA uses blue lights to stimulate astronauts mentally and longer wavelengths (such as red) to promote sleepiness. UV radiation has even been used to successfully treat a number of diseases such as psoriasis, eczema and jaundice.
Overexposure to UV radiation will affect your skin, your eyes and probably your immune system. People need to know UV radiation exposure effects accumulate over a lifetime. Your sun exposure behavior now will determine chances of developing skin cancer or cataracts later in life! Skin cancer is strongly correlated with the duration and frequency of sun exposure. Eyes exposed to UV will often develop more fibroblast cell growth on the surface which causes a thickening of the conjunctiva, typically resulting in a pinguecula.
Continued exposure results in the unsightly growth of tissue onto the cornea (the clear part of your eye) called a pterygium. This can have immediate detrimental effects on your vision, eye comfort and even how people view your cosmetically. People who live near the equator who don’t use sunglasses commonly have this whitish or pinkish growth on their eye’s surface – not very pretty to look. UV can even cause an inflammation of the cornea, called a photo-keratitis. This can be very painful. UV can kill the surface cells on the eyeball and cause temporary blindness, such as the well-known “snow-blindness”. Additional exposure to UV can lead to pre-cancerous growths such as actinic keratoses, nevuses or freckles and set the stage for cancerous growth.
Extremely acute exposure and/or continued exposure to UV light will lead to early cataract formation, malignant melanomas, non-melanoma cancers such as basal cell and squamous cell carcinomas and most likely increase the rate of macular degeneration. The skin around the eyes is some of the thinnest skin on the body – and very vulnerable to precancerous and cancerous growths. Compared to fair-skinned people, darker skinned people have a lower risk of developing melanoma or non-melanoma skin cancers. They do not normally have to apply sunscreens as often and can safely tolerate relatively high levels of UV radiation without getting burnt. However, regardless of skin tone, the risk of eye damage and of harmful effects on the immune system remains. Current science shows accumulated UV exposure damages DNA and lessens the immune system’s ability to fight cancer – a seriously negative combination.
So – enjoy the outdoors this Summer but please protect both your eyes and your skin by wearing excellent quality sunglasses (like we sell in our office) and applying sun-screen and/or covering exposed skin with outer garments!
Come See our high quality selection of sunglasses including Vuarnet, Ray-Ban, Kate-Spade and many others!
At no charge to you, we can measure the exact wavelengths of UV and visible light transmission on your sunglasses. See for yourself at Alpine EyeCare Center.
I look forward to personally meeting you!