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  • Jonathan Joffe

UV Rays - What You Need To Know.

Updated: Sep 1, 2019

Did you know that Sunglasses are more than a fashion statement? Let us explore this together.

Ultraviolet (UV) radiation potentially damages the skin, the immune system and structures of the eye. It is important to understand what UV damage can lead to and how we can prevent such conditions.

Most important to note is that chronic UV effects on the cornea and lens are cumulative, so effective UV protection of the eyes is important for all age groups and should be used around the year.

Protection of children’s eyes is especially important, because UV transmittance is higher at a very young age, allowing higher levels of UV radiation to reach the crystalline lens and even the retina.

Sources of UV light

- The predominant source of UVR is natural sunlight.

- Artificial light sources contribute to a lesser extent, but might become more important with the advent of modern and more energy-efficient light sources.

- In specific settings (eg, welding, microscopes, sun beds without adequate protection), the UV burden is increased.

1) Acute UV-induced damage: UV at sufficiently high doses induces acute photokeratitis, welder’s flash, or arc eye. Patients with this condition generally recover well and by wearing protective eye wear this acute UV damage can be avoided.

2) Chronic UV-induced damage (accumulative UV exposure over many years) may lead to Pterygium, Dry Eye and Cataracts, Age related macular degeneration and cancers are amongst others.

Petrigum on the left eye

Pterygium - is a growth of the conjunctiva or mucous membrane that covers the white part of your eye over the cornea. The cornea is the clear front covering of the eye. This benign or noncancerous growth is often shaped like a wedge.

Dry Eyes: symptoms include irritation, redness, tearing, and easily fatigued eyes. Blurred vision may also occur. The symptoms can range from mild and occasional to severe and continuous.

Cataract: is the clouding of the lens in the eye which leads to a decrease in vision. Cataracts often develop slowly and can affect one or both eyes.

Symptoms may include faded colors, blurry or double vision, halos around light, trouble with bright lights, and trouble seeing at night.

Left retina with signs of macular degeneration

Age-related macular degeneration: A retinal disease that commonly affects the elderly, whereby central vision loss is experienced. UV exposure is one of the risk factors for this condition.

Basel Cell Carcinoma

Cancer around or in the eye: malignant growths are rare but can occur around or in the eye. Any suspicious lesion or vision changes should always be medically assessed.


UV protection of the eye should be provided full time throughout the day and year. This can be achieved by wearing sunglasses, a sun visor or hat and/or specific contact lenses. UV skin protection around the eye is also important.

In children, increased UV transmission to the retina has been shown since the lens is still clear and the pupil is wider than that in adults.

Note that high ocular UV exposure is seen at higher altitudes (such as found in Windhoek), frequent outdoor work or leisure time spend needs to be accounted for.

For more professional advice on this, visit our practice from Monday to Fridays, 8am - 5pm.

Happy Spring Day from Olympia Optics.

Reference and more info here.

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