It’s well known that exposure to ultraviolet (UV) light from the sun can cause skin damage, but many studies show that UV light can also increase the risk of cataracts and other eye conditions.
Oxidative stress refers to harmful chemical reactions that can occur when our cells consume oxygen and other fuels to produce energy. It’s considered a major contributor to normal aging and unfortunately, cataract formation in the lens of your eye.
A study, led by researchers at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio, suggests that UV light can damage lens proteins in a distinct way that is typically seen in cataracts and in cells damaged by oxidative stress. In other words, UV light can substitute for oxygen to trigger harmful oxidative reactions in the lens.
Many misconceptions exist about the right sun protection for your eyes. Keep these tips in mind:
- Not all sunglasses block 100 percent of UV rays.
- Remember to wear sunglasses even when you're in the shade. Although shade reduces your UV exposure to some degree, your eyes still will be exposed to UV rays reflected from buildings, roadways and other surfaces.
- Sunglasses are important especially in winter, because fresh snow can reflect 80 percent of UV rays, nearly doubling your overall exposure to solar UV radiation.
- Even if your contact lenses block UV rays, you still need sunglasses. UV-blocking contacts shield only the part of your eye under the lens.
- If you have dark skin and eyes, you still need to wear sunglasses. Although your dark skin may give you a lower risk of skin cancer from UV radiation, your risk of eye damage is the same as that of someone with fair skin.
You need not fear the outdoors and sunny days, as long as you are equipped with the correct eye protection to reduce your UV exposure.