26 Oct THE 5 BIGGEST EYE COMPLICATIONS FROM SUNLIGHT
Long-range ultraviolet A (UVA) and short-range ultraviolet B (UVB) rays are the most dangerous forms of sunlight produced by the sun. Since these powerful rays have wavelengths shorter than visible light, they are invisible to the eye. Without realizing it, all of us are susceptible to damages from the sun.
Chronic exposure to the sun’s harmful ultraviolet rays without proper protection can seriously damage the eyes and surround skin, leading to vision loss and other complications. However, some simple protective defenses practiced daily can help keep our eyes and surrounding skin healthy throughout our lives.
What Are the Risks?
1. Eyelid Cancer
The delicate skin around the eye is a common location for skin cancer to develop. This uncontrolled growth of abnormal skin cells results in tumors, which can be either benign or malignant in nature. The most common skin cancers of the eyelid include basal cell carcinoma (BBC) and squamous cell carcinoma(SCC), as well as melanoma, account for nearly 10% of all skin cancers. Squamous cell carcinomas grow at a faster rate with a greater potential to spread. Both of these types of cancer are found mainly in patients with a history of chronic sun exposure. If left untreated, they may even spread to the brain. Some of the early warning signs below:
- A lump or bump that is stubborn and bleeds frequently
- Unexplained loss of eyelashes
- Persistent redness or irritation of the eyelids that does not respond to medication
- Newly acquired flat or elevated lesions with irregular borders
A clouding and discoloring of the crystalline lens inside the eye, the eye’s focusing system. In the U.S. alone, more than one million operations to remove cataracts are performed yearly. It is the most common cause of treatable blindness on a global scale. If left untreated, cataract will lead to vision loss.
A wedge-shaped growth that starts on the conjunctiva – white of the eye and continues to across the cornea, usually develop later in life. This can affect the refracting surface of the cornea, causing a vision disorder called astigmatism which can lead to blurred vision. Also known as “surfer’s eye”, due to high incidence associated with surfers. Such growths occur most frequently in areas where UV is intense year-round.
4. Macular Degeneration
One of the major causes of vision loss in the U.S. for people over age 60. This condition is caused by damage or breakdown of photoreceptor cells in the macula that may lead to central vision loss. The macula is the center region of the retina that provides the sharpest vision. Symptoms include blurriness or distorted vision.
5. Photo-keratitis, or corneal sunburn
Excessive exposure to UV from the sun or tanning machines can directly insult the cornea, the eye’s clear refracting surface that transmits light and images to the retina. This condition is also called “snow blindness” because risk of the condition is greatest at high altitudes on snowfields, where the intensity of both direct and reflected UV ray is highest. Nonetheless, photokeratitis can also occur in warm climates, especially when on the water.
Take a proactive approach
The number one advice is to wear sunglasses (prescription or non-prescription) year-round whenever you are out in the sun. Protect your eyes with high quality sunglasses that block 99 to 100 percent of both UV-A and UV-B radiation. Do put them to use even in cloudy days since UV penetrates clouds. When it comes to size and shape of the sunglasses, the more skin you cover, the better. Also, pick sunglasses that are polarized which eliminates glare, especially when driving. They also enhance comfort when you are out in the snow or on the water, where reflection greatly magnifies glare. Prolonged glare can lead to eye strain, fatigue, headaches, and even migraines. Always keep a pair of sunglasses handy while being outdoors regardless whether you are driving, fishing, participating in sports, or running errands.
While sunglasses are essential for year-round sun protection, hats are also a critical defense to protect again eye and skin damage. It is recommended that wearing a hat with at least a 3-inch brim all around in order to block most of the UVB rays from your eyes and eyelids. Don’t forget to apply sunscreen. For the vast majority of people, using a sunscreen with a sun protecting factor (SPF) 15 would be sufficient. Also, be sure to seek the shade especially between 10AM and 4PM when sunlight is the most intense.
Be aware that both water and snow reflect back 80 percent or more of sun’s rays, so that they penetrate your eyes and skin a second time. UV intensity increases with altitude, so remember to safeguard yourself during activities such as skiing and hiking. Remember, all of these UV-related eye conditions can be detected during a routine eye exam. Therefore, it is important to have a comprehensive eye exam, including dilation of the eyes, on a yearly basis.