For those of you lucky enough to have found a cloudless location, the May 20, 2012 annular solar eclipse was quite the visual treat, provided you were careful to avoid exposing your eyes to the sun’s harmful ultraviolet (UV) radiation….I was one of the lucky few Oregonians to have seen and recorded this event. But this wonderful experience got me to thinking about the cumulative risks to the health of our eyes we all face whenever (if ever?) the clouds disappear. I am especially concerned about those who work outside on a daily basis, because not only does unprotected sun exposure increase our risk for developing skin cancer, but it also increases our risk for developing cataracts.
UV-B radiation can damage the proteins in our eyes’ lenses. Over time, the accumulated damage manifests as cloudiness of the eye’s lens, a cataract, which adversely affects vision, sometimes to the extent that surgical correction is necessary. You can avoid this (and forestall age-related cataract development) by wearing sunglasses
that block UV-B radiation. Almost any inexpensive pair of plastic sunglasses will protect against UV-B. Hats are also helpful in preventing direct sunlight exposure to the eyes.
You can find helpful information about the health effects of over exposure to sunlight and how to avoid them at http://www.epa.gov/sunwise/uvandhealth.html