Top 5 Eye Problems Resulting From UV Exposure

Written by Kerry Lange

| 3 minutes
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We all know that UV radiation is harmful to our skin, but did you know that it can also cause a number of eye problems? These problems can range from minor irritation to severe damage that can lead to vision loss. Let’s take a look at the top five eye problems that can be caused by UV exposure!

5 Eye Conditions Caused By Sun Exposure

UV light is a type of electromagnetic radiation. It has a shorter wavelength than visible light, making it invisible to the human eye. Sources of UV lights are the sun, video display terminals, high-intensity mercury vapor lamps, xenon arc lamps, and welder’s flash.

 Exposure to UV radiation can cause several eye problems, including:

1. Photokeratitis

Photokeratitis is an eye condition caused by exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun or artificial light sources like tanning beds. Symptoms include pain, inflammation, and decreased vision. Treatment of photokeratitis usually involves resting your eyes, using cold compresses, and taking over-the-counter pain relief medications. If the condition persists or worsens, you should see an eye doctor for further evaluation and treatment.

2. Pinguecula

Pinguecula is a condition that can cause yellowish, bumpy growths on the white part of your eye. These growths are caused by long-term exposure to the sun’s UV rays. Over time, these rays can damage the proteins and cells in the eye’s outermost layer. This damage can lead to the development of pinguecula.

Pinguecula is a relatively common condition, affecting an estimated 2 to 3 percent of all Americans. It is seen more often in people who spend a lot of time outdoors, particularly in sunny climates. People with fair skin and light-colored eyes are also at higher risk for developing pinguecula.

Most people with pinguecula do not experience any symptoms. In some cases, however, the condition can cause redness, irritation, and blurred vision. If you experience any of these symptoms, you should see an eye doctor for further evaluation and treatment.

3. Pterygium

A pterygium (wing) is a wedge-shaped piece of flesh that projects from the corner of the eye. A pterygium may be congenital but more often is an acquired condition. It may be caused by various factors, including sun exposure, dust, fumes, and wind.

Pterygia are benign and do not metastasize, but they may grow large enough to cause astigmatism, blurred vision, or even blindness. Sometimes, pterygium can grow large enough to cover part of the pupil and affect vision. If this happens, you may need surgery to remove the pterygium. Pterygia can be alarming, but they are usually painless and do not require any treatment unless they grow large enough to cause problems with vision.

4. Cataracts

Cataracts are a common eye condition that results from sun exposure. Over time, the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays can damage the proteins in the lens of your eye, causing them to break down and clump together. This leads to a decrease in vision and, eventually, cataracts.

While most people associate cataracts with aging, young people can also develop this condition. In fact, according to the American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO), about 20 percent of Americans with cataracts are under age 40. 

Aside from UV exposure, there are several other risk factors for cataracts, including diabetes, smoking, high blood pressure, certain medications (such as steroids), and previous eye injury or surgery.

You may experience symptoms such as blurry vision, difficulty seeing at night, and increased sensitivity to light if you have cataracts. In the early stages, you may be able to improve your vision with new glasses or contact lenses. However, if cataracts progress, you will likely need surgery to remove them.

5. Macular Degeneration

Macular degeneration is a deterioration of the macula, the small central area of the retina that controls our fine vision. It’s estimated that 1.75 million people suffer from this condition, primarily affecting those over 60. Although many cases are mild and don’t result in vision loss, some can be more severe and lead to a decline in vision or even blindness. There are two types of macular degeneration: dry and wet. 

Dry macular degeneration is the most common type, accounting for about 80-90% of all cases. In this form of the disease, your macula slowly breaks down over time due to a buildup of waste products called drusen. While dry macular degeneration usually doesn’t lead to vision loss, it can progress to the wet form of the disease.

Wet macular degeneration is less common but more serious. In this form of the disease, abnormal blood vessels grow under your retina and leak fluid or blood. This can cause permanent damage to your macula and lead to a rapid decline in vision. Wet macular degeneration is the leading cause of blindness. There is no cure for it yet, but there are treatments that can slow its progression and help preserve your vision.

Is someone from your family suffering from eye problems due to UV exposure? We know the struggles of being an unpaid caregiver to a loved one with disabilities like eye vision problems. To help you manage the stress and gather emotional support during these challenging times, we recommend you check the CircleOf app today!

The CircleOf app simplifies planning, communication, and finding resources for unpaid caregivers and patients. Download the app and give it a try. It’s free!

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