UV is short for ultraviolet, a wavelength of light that is classed as radiation. It is found in sunlight and is also produced by welding machines, tanning beds and lasers. While a welder shouldn’t be without safety goggles, just being outdoors has its own UV risks.

There’s plenty of evidence that exposure to UV from the sun can have both long and short term effects on the eye, and on your vision. In the short term, exposure to a high level of UV radiation can result in photokeratitis. It’s a temporary condition, a sunburn to the cornea, the clear surface of the eye. It’s painful, your eyes may turn red and you could have a gritty sensation in your eyes as well as sensitivity to light. Fortunately, the symptoms go away after about 36 hours and the effects aren’t permanent.

Longer exposure to UV radiation is a different matter. There’s some evidence that it can increase the chances of getting cataracts, or damage the retina – the lining of your eye used for seeing. Damage to the retina is irreversible and can ultimately lead to blindness. Pterygium, a white or creamy growth on the cornea, is yet another potential problem. The effects of exposure are cumulative, so it’s never too late to introduce sunglasses into your routine.

Look for UV400 sunglasses that block 100% of damaging UV like Polaroid. Polaroid sunglasses don’t just exceed all international standards for UV protection – they exceed international standards for blocking glare and for the quality of their optics. If you require prescription version then a lot of manufacturers now make those. Look for something like Tom Ford or Oakley glasses for the best combination of style, practicality and top notch protection. And please, don’t use sunglasses when welding, using lasers or to protect your eyes on a tanning bed, you have been warned!

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Diana Adams

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