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Sunglasses are more than a fashion statement. They block out the sun’s harmful UV rays, which cause damage to our skin and eyes alike. Choosing not to wear sunglasses – or choosing ones that aren’t 100% UV protective – puts you at risk of several eye ailments later in life. While briefly exposing your eyes to UV rays may not cause any symptoms, prolonged exposure without eye protection (sunglasses) can lead to several eye ailments discussed in this article. Please take care of your eyes too!
When the sun’s UV rays reflect off of surfaces like sand, water, ice, and snow, and bounce back towards your eyes, you can develop a condition called photokeratitis, sometimes referred to as snow blindness. This condition usually goes away on its own, but if your case is severe, see an eye doctor. To avoid a painful eye sunburn, wear UV protective sunglasses when exposed to the sun.
Cataracts, or clouding of the lens of the eye, can be caused by excessive unprotected exposure to UV rays. Blurry vision, light sensitivity, double vision, faded color vision and difficulty seeing at night are all signs that you may have a cataract. In order to treat cataracts, the lens of the eye is surgically removed and replaced by a new artificial lens. UV-protective sunglasses can help reduce your chance of requiring cataract surgery later in life.
Pterygium and Pinguecula are two scientific terms for growths on the eye. A pterygium is a pink tissue-like growth in the same location while pinguecula presents as a small, yellow growth on the white of the inner corner of your eye. If left untreated, a pinguecula could turn into a pterygium. These growths are often treated with prescription eye drops but if they are severe or bothersome enough, they may need to be surgically removed.
Uveal or intraocular melanoma is the medical term for a type of eye cancer. Individuals with light-colored eyes are at the highest risk for this type of cancer. Some symptoms include a dark spot on the iris, blurred vision, seeing flashes of light and seeing “floaters” or spots drifting in your field of vision. Some treatment options include radiation therapy, surgery, photocoagulation or laser beam treatment, and thermotherapy. In extreme cases, the eye and part of the optic nerve may need to be removed.