UV Safety Month: How to protect your eyes from harmful radiation

So much attention is given to protecting the skin from sun damage that it appears that eye health is less important. However, this assumption is simply untrue. In an effort to correct this misunderstanding July has been named UV Safety Month in the US.

Protecting your eyes from the sunTypes of damaging light

Ultraviolet (UV) radiation is emitted naturally from the sun as a component of solar radiation. The light caused by this radiation comes in three types: UVA, UVB, and UVC. Whilst the Earth’s ozone layer absorbs UVC rays, making them unthreatening to health, UVA and UVB rays are able to penetrate the atmosphere.

Most people are exposed to large amounts of UVA during their lifetimes because they account for up to 95% of the UV which reaches the Earth’s surface. These rays are prevalent during all daylight hours during all seasons, and are also able to penetrate clouds and glass.

UVB rays, on the other hand, cannot pass through glass and are more prevalent in the summer time. Although these rays are less common than UVA, UVB can rebound from reflective surfaces meaning that they hit the skin twice when around water, sand, and snow.

Not only do UVA and UVB cause sun burn and skin cancer they are also major factors in the development of vision loss. The World Health Organisation (WHO) has estimated that around 5% of worldwide cataract cases are caused by UV radiation. It has also been speculated that age-related macular degeneration (AMD) and UV exposure are linked.

Blue light, emitted by fluorescent lighting such as energy efficient lights and computer monitors, has been linked with the vision-deteriorating condition too. Studies by the Chinese University in Hong Kong have found that light from the blue end of the spectrum could be a greater cause of AMD than UV light.

How to protect yourself from UV radiation

Protecting the eyes from harmful light rays is key to reducing the risk of developing AMD or cataracts. This is especially important if you spend large amounts of time outdoors, although the need to protection is not limited to only being outside.

To prevent sun damage to your eyes WHO recommends:

  • Limit time spent in the midday sun
  • Keep within the shade
  • Wear a cap or broad brimmed hat
  • Wear sunglasses with 100% UVA and UVB protection
  • Avoid sunbeds and sunlamps.

For extra protection whilst working indoors the American Macular Degeneration Foundation suggests wearing suggest wearing melanin glasses,particularly when looking at electronic devices for a long time.

Get screened this summer

Whilst taking precautionary measures when exposed to lots of light can help prevent eye health conditions like AMD they cannot guarantee complete immunity. That’s why during this month’s UV safety awareness campaign it is important to have your eyes checked for the signs of developing sight-loss diseases.

By seeking an optometrist with an MPS II macular pigment reader installed in their practice you can get accurate macular readings within just 90 seconds. This quick and simple process will allow your eye-care expert to determine whether you are at risk of developing AMD and therefore they will be able to dispense the correct advice, and any necessary medications, with as much efficiently as possible.

More information

To learn more about the MPS II macular pigment reader visit the Elektron Healthcare website.

For more information about UV radiation visit WHO’s fact sheet on UV and human health.

Read our guide to choosing sunglasses to ensure you buy the right pair for your eyes.

[Picture credit: Total Travel Guide & Kwiki Boutique]

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