The sun is the source of all life on our planet, but it also poses many health risks as a result of the intense rays of light that it emits in the form of UV radiation. UV, which stands for ultra-violet, is a form of radiation that is perhaps best known as a major cause of skin cancer. What may not be as well-known is the fact that UV light can also be quite harmful for your eyes.
UV radiation is actually one of the leading causes of cataracts and blindness. Our eyes are great at capturing light, but unfortunately, UV radiation also permeates our lenses to reach our retinas, where most incidences of adverse ocular health begin. Because UV light is a form of radiation, it can mutate or change the cellular structure of certain cells located in the eye as a result of repeated exposure.
During the autumn months, UV radiation is actually at its most intense, which may strike many of you as quite odd. Spring and Summer are traditionally much warmer months, and that means more sunlight – so shouldn’t that also mean that more UV rays are present? Sort of, but we have to remember that our eyes have their own natural defense against sunlight and UV light rays. Our brow (forehead) protrudes slightly over our ocular sockets to offer our eyes protection from the sun’s rays when it’s in a high overhead position. Well, the angle of sun changes with the seasons, and the Sun is at a much lower angle in the Northern Hemisphere during the season of Autumn. This means that during Autumn, the design of our faces is less attuned to blocking the sun’s rays, and exposure to UV light is a greater threat than it was in the summer.
There are many ways to protect your eyes and prevent the incidence of these ocular diseases. The easiest way to protect your eyes is to wear a hat or purchase a quality pair of sunglasses that offer UV protection. Talk to your optometrist about what pairs of sunglasses offer high quality UV protection. One way to assure the best protection for your eyes is to purchase a pair of polarized sunglasses. A pair of polarized sunglasses will have polarized lenses, which means that the lens is constructed in a way that a polarizer is inserted between the two pieces of material that make up the lens. A polarizer is a type of optical filter that is designed to filter out light sources of a certain wavelength, and the types of polarizers found in sunglasses are designed specifically to filter out UV light. Take note of the fact that 90% of UV light can still permeate cloud cover, so take protective measures even on cloudy days. We can’t see UV light, so it’s easy to forget that the danger of it is still present even when it’s not sunny outside.
Autumn is one of the most enjoyable seasons in terms of the mild weather and abundance of outdoor activities available. This presents a risk in terms of exposure to levels of UV light, so be sure to take necessary precautions and speak to your optometrist to ensure you have all of your bases covered.