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Studies show that long-term exposure to bright sunlight may increase the risk of cataracts and growths on the eye, including cancer. UV rays reflected off sand and water can cause eyes to sunburn, potentially resulting in temporary blindness in just a few hours.
Consider the following and see if you can tell the myths from the facts:
Young people are more vulnerable to UV exposure.
FACT: an estimated 50 percent of lifetime exposure to UV rays occurs before age 18. This is because youth spend more time outdoors, have larger pupils, clearer lenses, and few wear sunglasses or hats.
UV damage to the eyes can be reversed
MYTH: UV damage to the eye is cumulative and usually irreversible.
Our eyes are the most exposed to UV radiation between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m.
MYTH: Unlike our skin, our eyes are most exposed to UV radiation in the early morning and late afternoon.
In Canada, UV exposure is highest in the summer.
MYTH: Regardless of the season, total ocular exposure is nearly the same.
There’s no need to worry about UV rays when it’s cloudy outside.
MYTH: Over 90 percent of UV rays penetrate through clouds. Even in overcast weather, the eyes are still heavily exposed to UV rays. UV radiation also reflects off of surfaces like water, snow, concrete, sand, and glass.
Most sunglasses block 100 percent of UV radiation from reaching the eye.
MYTH: Not all sunglasses are created equal. Many inexpensive sunglass lenses have insufficient protection (make sure the label says 100 percent UVA and UVB protection!), can scratch easily, and may have imperfections that cause distortion. 45 percent of UV rays can still reach the eyes of sunglass wearers. Large, wrap-around, UV-blocking sunglasses provide the most protection and should be worn completely.
An optometrist can make specific recommendations to make sure an individual’s eyes are well protected from UV radiation’s harmful effects. A comprehensive eye exam can identify early onset of eye-health conditions that may not have apparent symptoms.