Mac looked in the mirror with horror at his eyes. Startled, his wife, Ula, asked, “What’s wrong?” “I don’t look young anymore,” gasped Mac. “You can thank UV light for that,” huffed Ula. Mac countered, “You mean it wasn’t from the kids?”
Though ultraviolet light can give you a nice tan and vitamin D for good health, too much can be harmful. This light can enter the eye, not only from failing to wear eye sun protection, but recent studies also show that it can be reflected off the back lens surface and cause similar damage.
These high energy wavelengths help form free radicals, like cellular acids, that break down body fluids and tissue. As tissue breaks down it loses its elasticity and cohesiveness. Around the eye this causes premature wrinkles and bagginess. On the eye surface it forms opacities called Pingueculae and Pterygia, which are seen correspondingly as little cream colored cysts on the white part and front surface of the eye.
In the eye center, UV light plays a large role in cataract formation that causes a haze or dirty windshield look to vision. In the retina and choroid, or back of the eye, UV light changes healthy supple cells to more leathery and bumpy tissue, especially in the macula, or central vision area. This, in turn, causes vision to seem more distorted, like watching a slide show on an uneven screen. This cellular breakdown from UV light often starts in childhood, when eyes are more vulnerable-due to pupil size and outdoor play. This damage then accumulates throughout life to cause vision health issues later.
Fortunately, there are optical remedies that help protect the eye from UV damage. A good ultra-violet coating on tinted and non-tinted lenses is a good start. Lenses that get dark in the sun also contain UV protection. Next, polycarbonate lens material not only gives UV light protection, but is also one of the most shatter-resistant lenses made. In fact, it’s the lens of choice for children and active adults.
Finally, a good antireflection coating on the lens back surface can be just as important as the other treatments mentioned. This allows UV light from behind the head, that normally would reflect off the lens back surface and enter the eye, to pass harmlessly through the lens and out the front surface.
Make sure you and your family keep these things in mind, when outdoors. Wear good eye sun protection to see sharp and look youthful, now and in the future.
Dr. Scott Borgholthaus is owner of Vision Haus Optometry in Cheney. He is a member of the Optometric Physicians of Washington and has been in private practice for over 27 years.
Dr. Borgholthaus would love to answer and/or include any questions or comments in future columns. Please send questions or comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.