It's a fact that basically everybody is exposed to UV rays. But the risks related to years of exposure to these harsh rays aren't really thought about, to a point where the majority of people take little action to guard their eyes, even if they're planning on being out in the sun for many hours. UV overexposure is dangerous and irreversible, and can lead to several serious, vision-stealing conditions down the road. Therefore, ongoing protection from UV rays is equally important for everybody.
There are two types of UV rays: UVA and UVB, both of which are damaging. Even though only small amounts of UVA and UVB light enter the inner eye, the ocular cells are incredibly receptive to the damaging effects of their rays. Even in the short term, small amounts of exposure can easily cause sunburnt eyes, often referred to as photokeratitis. When UVB rays are absorbed by the cornea, the cells that make up its exterior are significantly damaged, which can be expressed as pain, blurred vision or temporary blindness. UVA rays can actually enter the eye more deeply, which harms to the retina.
An ideal way to shield your eyes from UV rays is with good sunglasses. Be sure that your sunglasses or regular eyewear block both UVA and UVB rays completely. Wearing an unsatisfactory pair of sunglasses can actually be even worse than wearing no sunglasses at all. Think about it this way: when your sunglasses offer no UV protection, it means you're actually being exposed to more UV rays. Sunglasses that are inadequate tend to block some of the light, forcing your iris to open and allow more light in. This means that more UV will hit the retina. It's important to check that your sunglasses provide effective UV protection.
Extended exposure to UV rays can also cause an abnormal tissue growth on the eye, known as pterygium. This is a narrow, wedge-shaped tissue growth with blood vessels that appear over the white part on the surface of the eye. In addition to being visually unsightly, a pterygium can irritate the eye, and can even alter the curve of the eyeball, which leads to astigmatism. If the pterygium begins to grow over the cornea, it can affect vision and may require surgery. Because pterygia are the result of long-term UV exposure, it's totally avoidable.
Make an appointment to speak with your eye care professional about the various UV protection choices, which include adaptive lenses, polarized lenses and fixed tint sunglasses.