Exposure to ultraviolet (UV) rays has long been linked to skin cancer.  According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency, (UV) radiation from the sun and from tanning beds is classified as a human carcinogen by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the World Health Organization.
 
Another potential casualty of UV rays is healthy eyesight.  Cataract, a leading cause of visual impairment across the globe, has been linked to UV exposure.  In fact, a recent study funded by the National Eye Institute provided a link between UV rays and “oxidative stress,” finding that UV light can substitute for oxygen to trigger harmful oxidative reactions in the lens.
 
In addition to cataract, other eye problems that UV rays can cause include corneal sunburn (photokeratitis), pterygium (a growth that begins on the white of the eye), macular degeneration, and the development of skin cancer around the eyelids.
 
Prevent Blindness Wisconsin has declared May as UV Awareness Month to help educate the public on the dangers of UV and steps to take to protect vision today and in the future. 
 
Prevent Blindness Wisconsin strongly recommends that both adults and children always wear both a wide-brimmed hat or cap and the proper UV-rated sunglasses.  Wrap-around sunglasses are best as they protect the eyes and the skin around the eyes. For UV protection in everyday eyewear, there are several options such as UV-blocking lens materials, coatings and photochromic lenses. UV protection does not always cost a lot of money and does not get in the way of seeing clearly. There are also many types of sports eye protection glasses that offer UV protection as well. 
 
Prevent Blindness Wisconsin recommends speaking with an eye care professional to ensure the proper eye protection is being used no matter what the outdoor activity may be.
 
“Because UV damage to the eyes can be immediate, like corneal sunburns, and cumulative, causing cataracts and macular degeneration, it is imperative that we protect our eyes and encourage our kids to practice the same healthy habits to protect our vision for years to come,” said Barbara Armstrong, Executive Director of Prevent Blindness Wisconsin. 
 
For more information on the dangers of UV exposure and how to choose the best UV protection, please visit the Prevent Blindness Wisconsin dedicated Web page at preventblindness.org/uv or call (414) 765-0505.