It's a fact that basically everybody is exposed to UV rays. However, the risks related to many years of exposure to these harmful rays are rarely considered, to a point where many barely take enough action to protect their eyes, even if they're planning on being out in the sun for long periods of time. Being exposed to too much UV is unsafe and cannot be reversed, and may also result in more than a few severe, sight-damaging diseases later on in life. Therefore, ongoing protection from UV rays is a must for everyone.
There are two types of UV rays: UVA and UVB, both of which are harmful. Even though only minimal amounts of UVA and UVB light reach the inner eye, the eye tissue is very susceptible to the damaging effects of their rays. Intense, short-term of exposure can easily lead to sunburnt eyes, often referred to as photokeratitis. When the cornea receives UVB rays, the outer cells are destroyed, which can be expressed as pain, blurred vision or in serious cases, even temporary blindness. UVA rays can enter the eye more deeply, causing harm to the retina.
One of the best ways to shield your eyes from UV rays is through the use of quality eyewear. Check that your sunglasses or regular glasses block 100% of both UVA and UVB rays. Wearing an inadequate pair of sunglasses can sometimes be more harmful than having no sunglasses at all. Think about it this way: when sunglasses don't give you any UV protection, you're actually getting more UV rays. The inadequate sunglasses generally reduce the light, forcing your iris to open and let more light in. And this means that even more UV will reach your retina. It's important to check that your sunglasses offer maximum protection against UV.
Wearing a broad brimmed hat or cap will also protect you from up to fifty percent of UV rays. A brimmed hat or cap can also reduce UV rays hitting your eyes from above or around glasses.
Long-term exposure to UV rays can also lead to an abnormal tissue growth on the eye, known as pterygium. This is a thin, wedge-shaped tissue growth with blood vessels that spread over the white part of the eye's surface. In addition to being cosmetically unappealing, a pterygium can irritate the eye, and can even change the contour of the eyeball, causing astigmatism. If the pterygium starts to grow over the cornea, it can blur or obstruct vision and may need to be surgically removed. Because pterygia are caused by long-term UV exposure, it's entirely avoidable.
Talk to your eye care professional about all the different UV protection options, including fixed tint sunglasses, adaptive lenses and polarized lenses.