Cataracts and UV Exposure – What’s The Connection?

Sunglasses are more than just a fashion statement, they protect your eyes from the sun’s harmful UV rays.

Over time, exposure to UV light can contribute to the development of cataracts, but by wearing sunglasses you can reduce cumulative effects and protect your vision.

Understanding UV Radiation

What is UV light? It’s a form of electromagnetic radiation. Its primary source is the sun but it can also be emitted from artificial sources like tanning beds. The types that reach the earth’s surface are called UVA and UVB rays.

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UVA rays are the most dangerous. They have the power to penetrate the cornea and reach the retina at the back of your eye, causing damage.

UVB rays are partially filtered by the ozone layer but they can still have a detrimental effect on the cornea on the surface of your eyes.

What Are Cataracts?

Without proper protection, overexposure to UV light can cause cataracts. The natural lens of your eye that is normally clear, becomes clouded, compromising your sight.

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The signs of cataracts include:

  • blurred or dimmed vision
  • sensitivity to light
  • difficulty seeing at night
  • double vision

These symptoms may develop gradually and it is common for them to start affecting one eye before the other.

Cataract treatment is usually very straightforward. Approximately 330,000 cataract operations are performed each year in England alone, and complications are rare. The cloudy lens is simply removed and replaced with an artificial one, restoring sight.

Who Is At Risk Of Developing Cataracts?

Due to cumulative damage from UV radiation, cataracts are more likely to affect older people. Studies have found that approximately 30% of people 65 years or older in the UK have a cataract in one or both eyes that impairs their vision.

Protecting Your Eyes from UV Exposure

The best way to protect your eyes from UV exposure is by wearing sunglasses that block 100% of UV rays. This is necessary on sunny days, but also when it’s overcast as UV rays can pass through clouds. We recommend wraparound sunglasses styles, as they offer the best coverage.

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We have a wide range of sunglasses in our Dundee practice and our experience will be on hand to help you find the right style for your lifestyle and visual needs. If you are concerned that you may have cataracts, give us a call and we’ll be able to assess whether you need to come in for an eye exam.