Author: Christine Burris Wisecarver, O.D., See Clearly Vision
As the sun comes out and the rays intensify, it is important to remember how damaging UV exposure can be to the body.
The skin of the eyelids is thin and delicate and very susceptible to damage from UV rays. Any abnormal growth or bump on the eyelid should be carefully monitored, evaluated, and often times biopsied. Ninety percent of eyelid tumors are basal cell carcinomas (BCC) that present as pearly nodules that may break down and ulcerate. Although BCC’s are localized and don’t typically spread to the rest of the body, they can be very invasive and destructive to the local tissue. Squamous cell carcinoma and melanoma are much less common on the eyelid or ocular surface, but are significantly more dangerous. Again, any patient experiencing a new growth on the eye should be evaluated by an eye care practitioner.
Pingueculae and Pterygia are calluses that grow on the surface of the eye. These calluses are caused by environmental factors such as dryness, wind, and UV exposure. When these calluses become inflamed, the result is redness, irritation, and more dryness. UV protection and lubrication are critical in preventing inflammation and growth of pingueculae and pterygia.
The natural lens is one of the greatest UV absorbing tissues of the eye. UV absorption by the lens prevents harmful rays from reaching the retina. Over time, however, these UV rays alter the protein composition of the lens resulting in cataracts.
To protect the eyelids, ocular surface, and lens from UV damage, it is imperative that patients wear UV protection while outdoors. While tint intensity and polarization may aid in visual comfort, they do nothing to protect against UV exposure. Sunglasses should block 100% of UVA and UVB rays to have adequate protection and health benefits.