The sun provides light and warmth that is vital to all lifeforms. Unfortunately, the sun also releases UV rays, which cause sunburn and can be extremely damaging to the skin. What many do not realize is that UV rays can also be harmful to the eyes.
Evidence shows that sun exposure increases the risk of eye diseases. Eye diseases compromise the health of the eyes, and may even lead to vision loss or complete blindness. Dr. Raul Peña helps our Harlingen, TX, patients understand the potential risks of sun exposure, and offers tips to protect the eyes from sun damage so that individuals can preserve their eyesight.
How Does the Sun Affect the Eyes?
The sun releases energy in many forms, one of which is ultraviolet rays, more commonly known as UV rays. UV rays are invisible to the eye, but they are powerful. There are two types of UV rays released by the sun, and both can cause damage to the eyes.
UV-A rays have been shown to have a negative effect on the macula. The macula is part of the retina, which sits at the back of the eye. When the macula is damaged, it can impact a person’s central vision and their ability to clearly focus on small details.
UV-B rays are even more harmful to the eyes. UV-B rays are absorbed by the front of the eye, so this is where damage most commonly develops. UV-B rays are harmful to the tissues of the cornea and the lens, both of which are vital to clear eyesight.
Eye Diseases Linked to Sun Exposure
Because UV rays can damage eye tissues, sun exposure increases the risk of a number of eye diseases. Prolonged sun exposure leaves our Harlingen patients more vulnerable to:
- Keratitis, or corneal sunburn
- Macular degeneration
- Pterygium (a growth that starts on the white of the eye)
- Skin cancer on the eyelids
Each of these conditions seriously threatens the health and function of the eyes. Without early intervention and treatment, many of them can result in irreparable vision loss.
Protecting the Eyes from Sun Damage
Sun exposure has the potential to seriously damage the eyes, but most harm can be prevented. The eye diseases that have been linked to sun exposure do not develop overnight. It takes prolonged exposure to UV rays for damage to develop.
Our Harlingen patients can protect the eyes from UV rays and significantly decrease the risk of a number of eye diseases by following a few simple tips:
- Wear sunglasses with proper UV protection
- Wear a wide-brimmed hat to further block out UV rays
- Protect the eyes even when it isn’t sunny out; UV rays are just as harmful on cloudy or snowy days
- Be especially cautious at high altitudes, or when around reflective surfaces such as sand, water, and snow
- Limit time outdoors (or stick to the shade) between the hours of 10am and 4pm, when UV rays are strongest
Schedule an Appointment
Dr. Raul Peña offers a comprehensive range of eye care services, including treatment for eye diseases linked to sun exposure. To learn more about the treatments we provide, or to schedule an appointment with Dr. Peña, call (956) 264-1200 at your earliest convenience.