June 9, 2023

UV Light A Year-Round Vision Threat

Posted for Dr. Mark Whitten

It’s well known that exposure to ultraviolet (UV) light from the sun can cause skin damage. But many studies show that UV light can also increase the risk of cataracts and other eye conditions.

And no, this is not just a summertime problem, says Dr. Mark Whitten. UV light is a year-round vision threat, and winter poses as much potential danger to your vision as a week at the beach in July.

Dr. Mark Whitten of Whitten Laser Eye reminds you to protect your eyes as carefully this winter as you did last summer, as UV rays are just as harmful during the winter. Many snowboarders and skiers experience “goggle tan” that comes from UV light, or possibly even a sunburn, on the exposed area of skin around their ski goggles. That same light can damage the eyes, says Dr. Mark Whitten, and that can also lead to oracular degeneration and the progression of age-related eye disease.

Sunlight reflected off snow can actually cause greater glare than any light during the summer months. While summer sunlight is a little brighter than the winter sun on a clear day, light reflecting off snow and ice can make glare levels extremely high and hazardous, especially when operating a car, truck or snowmobile.

Sunglasses are your best defense, but what you wore at the beach probably is inappropriate for what you need now. When purchasing winter shades, make sure to look for anti-reflective, polarized lenses that guarantee full protection from damaging UV light. Choose glasses whose lenses curve closer around your eyes to ward off rays from the lower arc of the sun during winter months. (And if you’re a skier wearing goggles, use them on the slope, not while driving a car!)

A study published last year by the National Eye Institute, offers an explanation for how years of chronic sunlight exposure can increase the risk of cataracts, a clouding of the eye lens that typically occurs with aging. The study firms up a link between the sun’s damaging rays and a process called oxidative stress.

“Oxidative stress” refers to harmful chemical reactions that can occur when our cells consume oxygen and other fuels to produce energy. It’s an unfortunate consequence of living, but it’s also considered a major contributor to normal aging and age-related diseases-including cataract formation in the lens.

The study was conducted by Case Western Reserve University researchers in collaboration with the Iladevi Cataract and IOL Research Center in Ahmedabad, India. Their results show that UV light can damage lens proteins in a distinct way (called glycation) that is typically seen in cataract and in cells damaged by oxidative stress. In other words, UV light can substitute for oxygen to trigger harmful oxidative reactions in the lens.

Dr. Mark Whitten makes the point that water, which surrounds Southern Maryland, can amplify exposure. Many clinical studies, including a National Eye Institute (NEI)-funded study of fishermen in the Chesapeake Bay, have pointed to UV light exposure as a risk factor for age-related cataracts. In the earth’s atmosphere, UV light comes in two varieties: UVA and UVB. Their relative contributions to cataracts remain unclear, but UVA penetrates more deeply into the body and may be more likely to reach the lens.

There are excellent corrective tools for persons who are beginning to experience cataract development. Contact Dr. Mark Whitten at Whitten Laser Eye to discuss the options.




Leave A Comment