The Dark Side of Sunshine

By Eye Institute of Houston
April 15, 2019

Eye Care, TXCome summertime, we naturally feel more inclined to get outdoors and feel the sunshine on our skin. The summer months are reserved for traveling, picnics, and backyard barbeques after days at the pool or park. In all of our reverie of summer, we may forget that there can be a dark side to all that sunshine.

Sunshine is made up of ultraviolet light, aka UV light. There are several different wavelengths of UV light present in sunshine and two, in particular, need our attention. UVA and UVB light are not filtered as they travel through the atmosphere. This is how we get sunburned; and if these rays of light can affect the skin, leading to premature aging and skin cancer, they can also affect the eyes.

The Risk of UV Light

While it can feel incredibly nice to soak up some sunshine, when we do, UV light gets into the eyes. It also penetrates the skin around the eyes (so wear sunscreen!). According to studies, exposure to UV light, even during childhood, can increase a person’s risk for several eye diseases later in life. These include:

  • Pterygia and Pingueculae. Fleshy growths on the surface of the eye can be cosmetically frustrating and can also obscure vision if they become large. Outdoor enthusiasts who spend time on the water are especially susceptible to these growths due to the intensity of reflected light.
  • Did you know that your eyes can actually get sunburned? They can, and it can be pretty uncomfortable. Photokeratitis is a temporary condition that can be avoided with appropriate eye protection.
  • The World Health Organization has stated that as much as 20 percent of cataract cases are attributed to UV exposure. This is an important fact because it suggests that some forms of cataracts can be avoided.
  • Macular degeneration. Macular degeneration is typically an age-related condition that occurs later in life. However, studies suggest that early UV exposure can cause this concerning eye disease to develop in middle age.

Sunglasses to the Rescue

It isn’t difficult to protect your eyes from UV light. Sunglasses do the trick, and they needn’t be expensive. Check the label on sunglasses to make sure you choose lenses that filter 100% of UV light. Frames should be large enough to cover the entire eye, including as much skin around the eyes as possible. If you want next-level protection, add a ball cap or wide-brimmed hat to your sunny-day wardrobe.

Comprehensive eye exams can help you stay on top of your eye health. Schedule your exam at Eye Institute of Houston by calling (713) 668-7337.

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