Asian Eye Institute cornea and external disease specialist Dr. Sharlene NogueraWe know the dangers of too much sun exposure to the eyes. But how and why does it happen? “Our eyes are very sensitive,” explains Asian Eye Institute cornea and external disease specialist Dr. Sharlene Noguera. “Just like our skin, our eyes are prone to short-term and longterm damage when consistently exposed to large amounts of the sun’s ultraviolet rays.”
There are two basic types of ultraviolet (UV) rays—UVA and UVB. UVA rays penetrate more deeply as they can pass through the cornea and affect the lens and the retina. They are usually linked to development of cataracts and age-related macular degeneration. UVB rays, on the other hand, damage the cornea and lead to eye growths, including pterygium (pugita) and pinguecula. There is also cancer on the eyelids.
Filipinos are at higher risk for eye problems from UV radiation. Noguera says: “It is because we are living in a tropical country. We are closer to the equator, so there is less ozone. The ozone layer filters the UV radiation from the sun and the thicker it is, the more filtering it provides.”
She adds: “UV levels are also higher when highly reflective surfaces like water and sand are present. This means having a job that entails working under the sun and near the water also puts you at risk. In fact, there are a lot of patients who work as traffic enforcers, resort staff and seafarers.”
Children as well as people who have had cataract surgery, have light-colored eyes and are taking photosensitizing drugs are also susceptible to eye damage.
“Remember to wear sunglasses even when it is cloudy or you are in the shade,” says Noguera. “Although UV radiation levels are highest under cloudless skies, UV radiation can still penetrate through the clouds.
“Having dark lenses does not mean these can protect you from the sun’s UV rays. Take your sunglasses to your provider to evaluate if your lenses can block 99% of the harmful UV rays. Reputable optical shops usually have instruments to measure how much UV radiation your lenses can block.”
Eyeglass wearers can now protect their eyes from UV rays through prescription sunglasses or transition lenses. Mirrored or polarized lenses can also be appropriate if you plan to go out for a drive or go to the beach; these lenses do not give as much UV protection, but they cut off the glare.
Finally, Dr. Noguera advises: “You do not need to be scared of going out, especially on sunny days. Just make sure you have enough eye protection. Do not forget to see your ophthalmologist, too, if you experience any changes in your vision.” (Story/Photos by: Charizze Henson)