By Monique Barbour, M.D.
We all know the importance of sun protection. We wear SPF and protective clothing, but what about our eyes? Many individuals are unaware of the issues UV light can cause concerning vision.
UV RAYS EXPLAINED
UV radiation has multiple levels; for example, UVC rays are the most harmful to the skin and eyes, but the ozone layer blocks many of the rays. UVA rays play a considerable role in causing skin damage and aging. The wavelengths of UVA rays are long and are, therefore, less harmful than UVB rays. UVB rays are incredibly damaging to the skin and eyes and can cause cancer. UVB rays are shorter wavelengths and consequently can even penetrate through glass, so while driving in a car, or sitting by a window at work, the UVB radiation can harm you. It’s best to always protect yourself by wearing sunscreen and protective clothing.
According to the American Optometric Association, If your eyes are exposed to excessive amounts of UV radiation over a short period of time, you will likely experience photokeratitis. Like a “sunburn of the eye,” photokeratitis can be painful. Its symptoms include red eyes, a foreign body sensation or gritty feeling in the eyes, extreme sensitivity to light, and excessive tearing. Fortunately, these symptoms are usually temporary and rarely cause permanent damage to the eyes.
CATARACTS | MACULAR DEGENERATION
The longer the eyes are exposed to solar radiation, the greater the risk of developing cataracts or macular degeneration later in life. It is not clear how much exposure to solar radiation will cause damage. Therefore, whenever you spend time outdoors, wear quality sunglasses that offer UV protection and a hat or cap with a wide brim. Also, certain contact lenses can provide additional UV protection.
It’s a rare diagnosis, but if your eyes are constantly exposed to UV radiation, your chances of getting melanoma in the eye significantly increase. Ocular melanoma tumor cases are uncommon, but about 2,000 new cases are diagnosed each year. Living in Florida, we need to be especially conscientious about preventing this form of cancer, due to our excessive exposure to the sun.
Your eye is made up of three stratums, the outer, inner, and middle layers. The middle layer is where most melanomas form. They typically occur in the uveal tract, which houses the iris, pupil, muscle fibers, and layer of blood vessels that provides nutrients to reach the retina. This layer of blood vessels is called the choroid and is where most intraocular melanomas are found.
During your regular dilated eye exam, an ophthalmologist can usually detect the tumors if they are present. Some of the symptoms of ocular melanoma are a dark spot on the iris (color portioned eye), blurry vision, changes in the size of pupils or their shape, pain, redness, or consistent irritation.
PROTECTING YOUR EYES
The reason we hear so much advice on wearing sunscreen, sunglasses, and avoiding over sun exposure between 10:00 am to 4 pm, is due in large part to the sun’s harmful UV rays during the time when the sun is the highest in the sky.
Sunglasses are fashionable accessories that can indeed help to prevent melanoma from forming in the eyes. Your eyes need protection from both UVA and UVB rays.
When choosing sunglasses, some cheap versions may actually increase your risk by easily allowing harmful rays to filter through. It’s important to choose frames that cover your eyes securely. If they don’t fit your face correctly, UV radiation can penetrate through the gaps and openings.
Sunglasses Should Have One or More of the Following Options:
• 100% UV protection
• Polarized lenses
• Polycarbonate lenses
• UV coated lenses
If you or a loved one have any eye symptoms or are in need of your yearly eye exam, please schedule an appointment with an ophthalmologist immediately. Problems with sight, such as macular degeneration, retinal disorders, or melanoma, need to be addressed and treated as soon as possible. Although the treatment options for ocular melanoma are limited, if caught early on, a resection (removal) of the tumor is the standard of care.
A comprehensive dilated eye exam is critical for all patients. In high-risk patients, they may need the dilated exam several times per year. Don’t delay! The first step is to schedule the examination because early diagnosis can reduce vision loss significantly.
Please call 561-432-4141 to schedule your Clear Vue Eye appointment today.
Monique M. Barbour, M.D.
Dr. Barbour A Board Certified Ophthalmologist. She attended Saint Augustine’s College in Raleigh, North Carolina where she
received her bachelor’s degree in Pre-Medicine. Dr. Barbour graduated with honors from Howard University College of Medicine in Washington, D.C. and completed a residency in Ophthalmology at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in Bronx, N.Y.
After residency, she completed a Glaucoma fellowship at Georgetown University in Washington, DC and a Refractive Surgery fellowship at the world renowned Institute de Clinica Barraquer in Bogata, Columbia. Dr. Barbour has been the medical director of Clear Vue Laser Eye Center, a state-of-the-art vision care center for the past 15 years. As a diplomat of the American Board of Ophthalmology and a member of the American Academy of Ophthalmology, she is dedicated to providing the highest quality of ophthalmic care.
Clear Vue Eye Center
7657 Lake Worth Road, Lake Worth, FL 33467