Our eyes are sensitive organs and it is imperative that we protect them. While most people understand how physical or chemical harm could befall our eyes, a surprisingly large number of people don’t realize that one of the greatest threats to our eyes is the Sun.
The sun emits a constant stream of ultraviolet light, and this light has been shown to be harmful to our eye health. It is linked to numerous conditions, from the development of cataracts to promoting the development of age-related macular degeneration.
What is UV Light?
UV light exists on part of the spectrum that is just outside our ability to see, making them invisible to us (many animals and insects can see into the UV spectrum, but we humans can not).
Our exposure to UV rays mostly stems from the sun, though we can also experience exposure from man-made sources (such as tanning beds). It’s important to note that the vast majority of UV exposure (like 99% of it) we receive comes from the Sun.
There are three varieties of UV light:
- UVA – Exists in wavelengths from 320nm to 400nm. UVA rays account for about 90-95% of UV exposure we receive. UVA has been linked to the formation of cataracts as well as the progression of AMD.
- UVB – Exists in wavelengths from 290nm to 320nm. UVB rays account for about 5-10% of UV exposure we receive. UVB has been linked to cataracts as well as certain types of eye cancer.
- UVC – Most UVC light is filtered out by our atmosphere, with little (if any at all) reaching the Earth’s surface.
It’s important to note that UV light passes through cloud cover, meaning that you are still being exposed when it is overcast outside.
Protecting Our Eyes from UV Light
For most people, protecting our eyes from UV is simple:
- Wear glasses or sunglasses that are 100% UV blocking – Most quality pairs of sunglasses block 100% of UV light (all the sunglasses we carry do so), and most eyeglass lenses are also UV blocking.
- When outdoors, wear a hat – In addition to helping prevent sunburns, a hat will reduce how much sunlight sneaks through the gap between your face and the glasses.
By taking these small steps we can greatly reduce how much UV exposure our eyes receive, minimizing their contribution toward any developing eye conditions. You only have one set of eyes- protect them!