Living in the Sunshine State, it might seem like worshiping the sun is only natural. Though as John Denver said, sunshine on my shoulders makes me happy – that sunshine can have significant negative repercussions.
Most if not all of us are aware of the damage that the sun, particularly the high energy ultraviolet (UV) rays, can cause to the skin. It is well known that various forms of skin cancers are more common in tropical climates like ours. It is for this reason, that UV blocking “suntan” lotion is highly recommended to protect your skin from these potentially dangerous rays.
What many are not aware of is that these same UV rays can also cause substantial damage to the eyes. In fact, numerous studies have linked UV exposure to the early development of cataracts, a clouding of the normally clear lens inside the eye that can cause blurred or poor vision, glare, and numerous visual symptoms. Over exposure to UV light can also lead to pterygiums – a fleshy tissue that forms on the surface of the eye, most typically on the inner aspect of each eye. These growths, though not cancerous, can distort the shape of the eye and in advanced cases, grow over the pupil causing poor vision. Numerous studies have shown that pterygiums are more frequent in people with higher exposure to uv light. Macular degeneration is another condition that has been linked to UV light. This condition affects the retina and can cause a complete loss of central vision in its most severe form.
It is important to protect your eyes from the sun! Sunglasses that block UV-A and UV-B rays can protect you not only from the above conditions, but also help prevent you from developing skin cancer on your eyelids. It is important when you buy sunglasses to look for glasses that are labeled “100% UV protection”. Choose wraparound sunglasses to protect you from the sun’s rays entering from the side. Broad brimmed hats may also be helpful.
Remember that UV rays can penetrate clouds, so protect yourself even on cloudy days. Enjoy the Florida Sunshine but be mindful to shield your eyes from the potentially damaging effects of UV rays.
Jonathan M. Frantz, MD, FACS
Chief Surgeon – Frantz EyeCare