Ultraviolet Radiation (UV)
Ultraviolet radiation (UV) is an invisible component of sunlight, most commonly known to cause sunburns and skin cancers. Some UV is filtered by the ozone layer but increasing amounts are reaching the earth as the ozone layer diminishes. Exposure to UV builds over time. And direct contact with sunlight, for even short periods of time, can lead to several long-term eye health problems. Some of these problems begin symptom-free.
To help reduce UV radiation damage to your eyes, consider the following tips:
Beware of high sources of UV exposure in the workplace.
The Canadian Center for Occupational Health & Safety indicates examples of workers at potential risk from exposure to UV radiation. This includes:
• Outdoor workers
• Construction workers
• Paint and resin curers
• Plasma torch operators
• Food and drink irradiators
• Laboratory workers
• Lighting technicians
• Lithographic and printing workers
Recognize sources of man-made ultraviolet radiation.
In dental and medical practices, UV radiation can be used for:
• Killing bacteria
• Creating fluorescent effects
• Curing resins
Other examples include:
• Sun tanning booths
• UV lamps
• Arc welding torches
• Mercury vapour lamps.
Wear sunglasses, prescription or safety glasses with anti-UV coatings.
Sunlight is by far the greatest source of UV radiation. Exposure to its UVA and UVB rays, as well as man-made sources of UVC rays, can lead to long-term eye damage including:
• Age-related macular degeneration
• Eyelid skin cancer
• Premature age spots around the eyes
• Tissue growths on the surface of the eye including pinguecula and pterygium, where the latter can encroach on the corneal axis
If you wear corrective contact lenses, consider wearing UV-blocking contact lenses for an added layer of UV protection.
Sunglasses are important but aren’t always enough. Depending on the frame size, shape and position, as much as 45 per cent of UV rays can still reach the eyes. Contact lenses with UV protection are an effective way to block light from the sides. It also protects from harmful UV radiation reaching the cornea and inside the eye. However, not all contact lenses offer UV protection. Check with your optometrist to find out which ones are right for you.
Recognize symptoms of UV eye damage.
Depending on the UV source, UB burns are commonly known as:
• Welder’s flash
• Snow blindness
• Ground-glass eyeball
• Flash burn
Common symptoms include:
• Immediate pain
• Inflammation of the cornea
• An intolerance to light
Should you experience these symptoms, see your optometrist right away.
While the symptoms listed above indicate eye damage caused by UV exposure, many long-term problems caused by UV exposure are symptom-free. To learn about the UV damage your eyes may already have, visit your optometrist for a thorough eye examination.