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Ultraviolet (UV) light is a type of radiation that is produced naturally by the sun and artificially by other sources like tanning beds. Although UV light has some positive effects (like Vitamin D production), it also has some drawbacks. Therefore, it’s important to limit your exposure to these harmful rays in order to protect your eyes. Receiving proper eye care in OKC or elsewhere is one step in protecting your eye health, but there are a few other measures you and your family can take too.
Educate yourself first
When are you most vulnerable to UV rays?
The most exposure to the sun’s UV light occurs between 10 am and 4 pm in the spring and summer. This increases as you get closer to the equator and reach higher altitudes. Highly reflective surfaces like water and asphalt also increase exposure.
While your body can repair some of the damage, it’s important to limit your exposure to the sun during these peak hours. Why? As your exposure increases, so does the damage to your DNA.
How do UV rays affect DNA?
There are three types of UV light: A, B and C. Of the three types, UVB is the biggest danger because UVA is lower energy and UVC is mostly blocked by the earth’s ozone layer.
The higher energy UV light (types B and C) has enough energy to change the atoms and molecules in your body and produce something known as a free radical. Free radicals are highly reactive and lead to many health problems, including eye damage.
Thus, UV radiation can damage your DNA (genes) by breaking the bonds between thymine molecules (one of your DNA’s building blocks).
What are the consequences of damaged DNA?
In the worst cases, this damage could lead to:
- Skin cancer on the eyelids. It is currently unknown whether UV light is associated with cancer inside the eye. The most common eyelid skin cancer is basal cell carcinoma, for which UV radiation is a risk factor.
- Pterygium, a growth on the front of the eye that can cause vision loss. This is most common in individuals whose occupation or leisure activities involve reflective surfaces like water or asphalt. So, in such settings, exposure time and protective sunglasses are crucial for preventing damage.
- Photokeratitis, a painful sunburn to the front of the eye. (A professional who specializes in eye care in OKC or elsewhere can help you treat this.)
- Cataracts. A cataract is the clouding of the eye’s internal lens. The WHO estimates that overexposure to UV radiation may cause about 20% of cataracts cases.
- Macular degeneration, a type of central vision loss. The macula is the center of the back of the eye (the retina). It is responsible for good central vision. The degeneration of this area is the leading cause of severe vision loss in people over 50 years old.
How to avoid UV ray damage
By understanding the risks of UV rays, you and your family can take the proper precautions to help safeguard your eyes.
A balanced diet is very important – discover some of the most helpful foods for eye health here. Indeed, experts say that it is better to get Vitamin D from your diet (or supplements) than from sun exposure. A diet (or daily vitamin) that includes anti-oxidants will help fight off the dangerous free radicals caused by UV light.
So, since you can receive the main benefit of UV light from a safer source, you can reduce your exposure with a clearer conscience. Try sitting in the shade more often, and avoid tanning beds. We also recommend a good pair of wrap-around sunglasses that block out UV light. Here are some tips on choosing the best protective sunglasses.
Protect yourself and get eye care in OKC and nationwide
While the daily habits mentioned above are critical to protecting your eyes from UV light, don’t forget about your regular eye exams! At Vision Care Direct of Oklahoma, we take eye care seriously and offer valuable resources to our members.
Our pre-paid vision plans include comprehensive eye exams and offer access to the largest network of providers of eye care in OKC and elsewhere. Learn more about our affordable vision plans, and get access to individual eye care today.