We protect our skin with sunscreen, but what about our eyes? Most of us are aware of the dangerous effects ultraviolet (UV) rays have on our skin but few of us realize the danger imposed on our eyes. UV radiation, whether from natural sunlight or artificial UV rays can damage the eyes surface tissues as well as the cornea, lens and retina. Also, UV radiation can burn the front surface of the eye, much like a sunburn on the skin.

Scientific studies have shown that exposure to small amounts of UV radiation over a period of many years may increase the chance of developing a cataract and may cause damage to the retina, which is the nerve rich lining of the eye that is used for seeing. This damage to the retina is usually not reversible. Cumulative damage of repeated exposure to UV rays may contribute to chronic eye disease, as well as increasing the risk of cancer around the eyelids.

Long term exposure to UV light is also a risk factor in the development of pterygium (a growth that invades the corner of the eye) and pinguecula (a yellowish, slightly raised lesion that forms on the surface tissue of the white part of your eye).

Each time we are out in the sun without protection, we are increasing the risk of UV damage which contributes to our risks for these serious disorders. People of all ages should take precaution whenever they are outdoors. UV blocking sunglasses and broad-brimmed hats are highly recommended outdoors.

Uche Agenmonmen (O .D)