The Eye & Ultraviolet Radiation

Thursday, September 27, 2012

The Eye & Ultraviolet Radiation

Let’s explain the dangers of exposure to UV and the eye, mainly because we want everyone to understand why protection is so important. In studies 82% of people understanding the harmful effect of UV to skin, but only 9% of people are even aware of these harmful effects on the eye. Look in the upcoming “Eye Safety” blog for some solutions and protection.

Extended exposure to UV has been linked to eye damage, including cataracts, macular degeneration, pingueculae, pterygia and photokeratitis.  New research suggests that the sun’s high-energy visible (HEV) radiation; also called “blue light” may increase your long term risk of macular degeneration.  In fact, experts say as much as 80% of our lifetime exposure to UV rays occurs by age 18.  The risk of damage to our eyes and skin from solar UV radiation is cumulative. With this in mind, it is especially important for kids to protect their eyes from the sun, and generally they spend more time outdoors.

Contact lenses block UV rays, shielding only a portion of the eye. UV rays can still damage your conjunctiva and other tissues not covered by the lens, including the delicate skin around the eyes. While driving, you experience blinding glare that prevents you from seeing clearly, making it more likely to be in traffic accidents or have delayed reaction time.

Let’s now talk about UVB, maybe the most understood energy rays. These rays are filtered partially by the ozone layer, but some still reach the earth’s surface.  In low doses, UVB radiation stimulates the protection of melanin (a skin pigment), causing the skin to darken, creating a suntan. But in higher doses, UVB rays cause sunburn that increases the risk of cancer. UVB rays also cause skin discoloration, wrinkles and other signs of premature aging of the skin. Skin cancer of the eyelid accounts for 5-10% off all skin cancer and 1 in 5 Americans will develop skin cancer. 

Below is the US Environmental Protection Agency Standards.  Boston average UV Index was between 1.2 and 8.2 in 2008. But looking below it is important to eye health to wear sunglasses daily.
UV Index
Risk Level
2 or less
1. Wear sunglasses
2. If you burn easily, use sunscreen with SPF 15+
1. Wear sunglasses
2. Cover up and use sunscreen
3. Stay in shade near midday, when sun is strongest
1. Wear sunglasses
2. Cover up and use sunscreen
3. Reduce time in the sun between 10am-4pm
Very High
1. Wear sunglasses
2. Cover up and use sunscreen
3. Minimize sun exposure between 10am-4pm
1. Wear sunglasses
2. Apply sunscreen (SPF 15+) liberally every 2 hours
3. Try to avoid sun exposure between 10am-4pm

For more information on UV protection, contact D’Ambrosio Eye Care at 800-325-3937.  You may also request an appointment at

Reference sources:  Skin Cancer Foundation, Healthy Sight Counseling, Home Facts, Crizal, All About Vision

Staffed by a team of Ophthalmologists, Optometrists, Opticians, technical and administrative staff who provide eye examinations for adults and children, cataract surgery and intraocular lens implants (IOL), laser vision correction such as LASIK, diagnosis and treatment of cornea disease including cornea transplants, care for diseases of the retina including diabetes and age related macular degeneration and diagnosis and treatment of glaucoma as well as contact lenses, eyeglasses, eyewear  and optical services.

D'Ambrosio Eye Care is a leading eye and LASIK care practice serving the greater Boston and central Massachusetts area including Acton, Athol, Berlin, Bolton, Boylston, Boxborough, Chelmsford, Clinton, Concord, Fitchburg, Gardner, Greenfield, Groton, Harvard, Hudson, Lancaster, Leominster, Lexington, Littleton, Lowell, Lunenburg, Marlborough, Milford, Shelburne Falls, Shirley, Sterling, Stow, Sudbury, Templeton, Westminster, Westborough, Winchendon and Worcester, Massachusetts.