Although UVC lamps were common even before the pandemic, users must operate them properly and safelyAlcohol, disinfectant products and cleaning chemicals have been the top tools to help keep COVID-19 at bay. However, these days, people have also started using germicidal or ultraviolet (UV) lamps to disinfect their deliveries, homes and offices.
According to Asian Eye Institute corneal and external disease specialist Dr. Sharlene Noguera, UV lamps have been commonly used even before the pandemic started.
“UV lamps are usually used in settings such as clinics and hospitals where disinfection is a primary concern. These lamps generate energy that are very effective in destroying the ability of bacteria and viruses to exist or multiply,” Noguera says.
Types of UV rays
But can UV lamps harm your eyes?
“There are three types of UV rays,” Noguera explains. “The most common ones are the UVA and the UVB, which you would get from sun exposure. Excessive exposure to UVA and UVB can lead to cataracts, age-related macular degeneration and even eye growths like pterygium and pinguecula.”
UVC could be considered the most dangerous among the three. We typically don’t receive a lot of UVC radiation because the ozone layer absorbs it; that is why we are only exposed to it through artificial sources like UV lamps.
“Exposure to UV lamps can cause many problems like respiratory and skin irritation. It can also cause eye damage. While it takes years to develop eye problems caused by UVA and UVB, it only takes seconds with UVC,” Noguera adds. “When you are exposed to UVC, the outer parts of the eye absorb the UV radiation immediately, causing a temporary but painful inflammation called photokeratitis.”
Often compared to a sunburn, photokeratitis affects the cornea and conjunctiva. A person with photokeratitis does not realize it until the damage has occurred.
Sand in the eyes
“When they do, they may experience feeling like there’s sand in their eyes, eye redness, blurry vision, tearing, swelling, sensitivity to light, seeing halos, twitching of the eyelid or worse, temporary vision loss,” Noguera says.
The eyes typically recover within a few days, but the patient must undergo a comprehensive eye exam to determine how much damage was done.
According to Noguera, it’s also important to check whether any intervention is needed to promote healing and ensure that the patient’s eyes are protected. They may be prescribed with eye medicine or pain relievers, and be advised to avoid rubbing their eyes. Contact lens wearers should also avoid wearing contacts during their recovery.
Warning to the public
The World Health Organization has warned the public that UV lamps should not be used to sterilize their hands or other parts of the body.
Noguera cautions: “There are proper ways to use UVC lamps safely and correctly. If you are using a UVC lamp to disinfect a room, use the timer to give yourself enough time to leave before the lamp starts operating. If you need to enter the room, you should protect your eyes and skin by wearing UV-protective goggles or face shields, gloves and a coat without gaps between Through its five-year partnership the cuff and glove.”
. For more information, visit www.asianeyeinstitute.com. (Story/Photos by: Charizze Henson)