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Ultraviolet radiation is an invisible form of light that is mainly produced by the reflection of the sun.

We know the sun has certain health benefits for our eyes. It helps reduce the prevalence of myopia. The early morning sunlight helps people sleep better at night, as well as helping to regulate the body clock. It provides Vitamin D, which is essential for our health.

Effects of excessive ultraviolet exposure

However, if excessively exposed to it, the ultraviolet radiation will have adverse effects on our eyesight, thus affecting our vision. This will then result in a breakout of certain eye conditions such as cataracts, macular degeneration and photokeratitis (temporary loss of vision).

How it manifests

When ultraviolet radiation affects the eyes, it usually manifests with symptoms such as gritty feeling (sand-like feeling) in the eyes, eye pain, headache, eyelid twitching, teary eyes, swelling, redness, and blurry vision. If you experience any of these symptoms while working outside, we recommend going indoors immediately.

Managing the effects

Some of the negative effects of ultraviolet radiation from the sun are short term and would wear off shortly after you have left the sun. However, long-term exposure to even small amounts of UV radiation can increase your risk of developing a cataract or macular degeneration. UV exposure adds up as time goes on and long-term UV exposure can cause tissue elevations on the surface of your eye. We call these pinguecula and pterygia.

As we are on the equator, we receive a higher amount of UV radiation than other parts of the world. Plain sunglasses without UV protection do not protect your eyes. Ensure your sunglasses have UV protection.

Other protective tips that can help to prevent damage to your eyes from ultraviolet radiation include wearing a wide-brimmed hat to protect your eyes and face when in the sun and making use of proper protective eye equipment if your job exposes you constantly to ultraviolet radiation. You can also ask your eye doctor about UV-absorbing contact lenses if your job or lifestyle requires them.

Endeavour to schedule regular visits to your eye care specialist every year for a comprehensive eye exam. This is one sure way to keep your eyes healthy at all times.