May 20th, 2014
May is Healthy Vision Month, a perfect time to ask: Are we taking the proper precautions to protect our eyes? Unfortunately, the answer is no. Eyes may be windows to the soul, but they are also windows for harmful ultraviolet (UV) radiation, which can cause silent, long-term damage on our vision that may occur decades later.
This issue is particularly timely with summer around the corner—a season in which it’s almost intuitive to lather on the sunscreen before we head to the beach. While most Americans understand the link between UV radiation and skin cancer, many are less aware of the connection between UV radiation and eye damage. Yet the truth is that harmful UV rays are not just bad for skin; they also can inflict significant eye damage over time. Worldwide some 12 to 15 million people become blind from cataracts annually, of which up to 20% may be caused or enhanced by sun exposure according to estimates from The World Health Organization1. UV rays also have been linked to other ocular conditions.
What’s more, UV rays can cause short-term conditions such as photokeratitis (a corneal inflammation) and photoconjunctivitis (an inflammation of the conjunctiva under the eyelid).