Safety in the Florida sun – particularly during the summer – is critically important, and by now, most of us are aware of the damage that the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays can cause to the skin and the eyes.
There are three types of ultraviolet rays: UV-A, UV-B and UV-C. UV-C is the least harmful of the ultraviolet rays, because this high-energy radiation is blocked by the ozone layer and does not reach the earth’s surface. When UV-C rays are generated near the ground surface (i.e., from lights containing mercury or intense radiation energy generated from tools like welding torches), they can still result in skin damage and a condition called arc eye – which is also known as conjunctivitis.
Over-exposure to UV-A and UV-B rays can be detrimental to both the skin and the eyes. These rays could alter the structure of skin cells, cause sunburn and sun damage, and even lead to certain forms of skin cancer. Numerous studies have also linked UV-A and UV-B exposure to vision challenges such as:
- The early development of cataracts – a clouding of the normally clear lens inside the eye causing blurred or poor vision, glare, and numerous visual symptoms.
- Pterygiums – a fleshy tissue that forms on the surface of the eye – most commonly on the inner aspect of each eye. These growths are not cancerous; however, they can distort the shape of the eye and in advanced cases, grow over the pupil and interfere with vision.
- Macular degeneration – a condition that affects the retina and can cause a complete loss of central vision in its most severe form.
It is well known that various forms of skin cancers are more common in tropical climates such as ours, so UV-blocking sunscreen is extremely important. Just don’t forget to protect your eyes!
Sunglasses that block UV-A and UV-B rays (and labeled 100% UV protection), not only can protect you from the above conditions, but also might prevent you from developing skin cancer on your eyelids. Remember that UV rays can penetrate clouds, so be sure to protect yourself even on cloudy days.
Consult with the experts in eye health if you have any questions or concerns about UV safety!