Everyone loves the sun and it supports life as we know it. Everyone is also familiar with the term UV radiation and the dangers that this brings to people and materials. The sun’s primary danger is in the form of Ultraviolet (UV) radiation. UV radiation is a component of solar radiation, but it can also be given off by artificial sources like welding machines, tanning beds and lasers.
Long-term exposure to UV radiation, however, can be more serious. Scientific studies and research have shown that exposure to small amounts of UV radiation over a period of many years increases the change of developing a cataract and may cause damage to the retina, a nerve-rich lining of the eye that is used for seeing. Additionally, chronic exposure to shorter wavelength visible light (i.e. blue and violet light) may also be harmful to the retina.
Questions Regarding UV Radiation
If you can answer “yes” to one or more of the following questions you could be at higher risk for harm to the eyes from radiation:
- Do you spend a great deal of time outdoors?
- Do you spend time skiing, mountain climbing or at the beach?
- Do you use a sunlamp or a tanning parlor?
- Do you live in the mountains or the United States Sunbelt?
- Are you a welder, medical technologist, or do you work in the graphic arts or in the manufacture of electronic circuit boards?
- Do you take prescription or over-the-counter drugs that can increase your sensitivity to UV radiation (check with your optometrist, pharmacist, or physician)?
- Have had cataract surgery in one or both eyes?
You should be protecting your eyes from UV radiation: Tips to protect your eyes from UV Radiation
- Sun damage to eyes can occur anytime during the year, not just in the summertime, so be sure to wear UV-blocking sunglasses and broad-brimmed hats whenever you’re outside.
- Don’t be fooled by clouds: the sun’s rays can pass through haze and thin clouds.
- Never look directly at the sun. Looking directly at the sun at any time, including during an eclipse can lead to solar retinopathy, which is damage to the eye’s retina from solar radiation.
- Don’t forget the kids and older family members: everyone is at risk, including children and senior citizens. Protect their eyes with hats and sunglasses.