Light makes it possible for us to admire the beauty of nature, look at our own reflections, and drive home safely late at night. Your eyes’ design captures light and interpret the signals you absorb every second. Light appears almost everywhere you look, and this energy source has become a key component of everyday life. Look around you-you see lights almost everywhere around you!
But when you expose our eyes to too much light, you can cause yourself pain, cellular damage, and even vision loss. To ensure that your eyes continue to work for the rest of your life, you should know about the harmful effects of light exposure and how to avoid them.
- Direct Sunlight
Whether you like to look watch the horizon swallow up the sun or you can’t resist watching a solar eclipse, direct sunlight can damage your eyes. Exposure to direct sunlight harms your retinas and leads to macular degeneration.
Sunlight can also cause photo keratitis, sunburns on the surface of the eye, and even blurred vision. Other effects of sun exposure include pink or yellow growths on the whites of your eye, as well as sun spots that resemble freckles.
To protect your eyes from sunlight, wear sunglasses or a hat with a brim to block out d rays. If you didn’t think ahead and have already suffered from a sunburn, try to stay indoors for a few days and soothe your irritated eyes with eye drops. Most eyes can heal themselves, but for more serious cases, consult an eye doctor.
- Ultraviolet Light
While sunlight includes all possible wavelengths, UV light includes wavelengths too low for the eye to see. Even if you see an overcast sky, nearly 80% of the UV light from the sun can still leak through the clouds and hurt your eyes.
UV light comes in three varieties that pose different challenges:
- UVA: You can find these high-wavelength beams in outside and in tanning beds. Though UVA rays cause very little damage, too much exposure can still cause eye problems, including snow blindness or eye fatigue.
- UVB: Industrial environments emit many of these mid-range UV wavelengths around their work spaces. UVB rays harm the eye’s lens and causes welder’s eye, a condition that makes you feel like you have sand- and grit-filled eyes. UVB rays can also cause cortical cataracts.
- UVC: Of all UV rays, UVC causes the most damage. Even short exposure to low wavelength harms the cornea and the lens. Luckily, the atmosphere absorbs most UVC rays, which means you won’t expose yourself to these wavelengths on a regular basis.
To protect your eyes from these rays, use sunglasses or sun-blocking eyeglasses when you ski, go boating, or venture outdoors. And use a hat or visor to block additional UV rays.
You can also protect yourself against UV rays by staying indoors during high-risk exposure times. In summer months, daylight hours between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. expose you to the most amount of UV light. In the winter, the hours from 8 a.m. to 10 a.m. pose the greatest risk of contact.
- Infrared light
Wavelengths from this type of light come from the opposite of the UV light spectrum. Too high for the visible spectrum, infrared light can be found in the processes of steel manufacturing, glass blowing, and electric welding.
Infrared light damages your eye’s lens, cornea, and retina. For this reason, welders and glass blowers should always wear specialized eye gear designed to protect against infrared light.
- Blue light
Blue light is the most dangerous of the colors in the visible spectrum. Today, we use blue light in our computer screens, smart phones, fluorescent lamps, and LED lights. Light bulbs that emit LED lights contain 35% blue light. Over an extended period of time, this light can pose a serious threat to eye health.
Both acute exposure and exposure over time can damage the sensitive tissues in your eye. Blue light particularly targets the retina and the cells at the back of the eye which can inhibit your vision as you age.
To protect against this harmful light, limit your exposure to the screen or turn down the brightness. The Paris Vision Institute (http://www.walman.com/files/walman/pdfs/Crizal%20Prevencia%20Dispensing%20Guide.pdf) has also developed a filter that blocks out only the harmful blue violet light while allowing blue-turquoise light through. You can also give your eyes a break from the screen by doing the gymnastic exercises that Protect Your Vision (http://www.protectyourvision.org/) created.
If you have family history of AMD or other eye problems, ask your doctor for other hints to control blue light exposure. And always consider the harmful effects of light before you go start a hike, play volleyball on the beach, snorkel in the ocean, or hit the slopes on a sunny day. For more information about eye care, talk to your eye doctor