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The Link Between UV Exposure and Cataracts: Protecting Your Eyes from the Sun

Wednesday, May 29, 2024


Cataracts are often perceived as an inevitable part of aging. But while it’s true that not all cataracts can be prevented, there are some risk factors you can control. UV exposure, in particular, has been attributed to the formation of cataracts. Here’s everything you need to know about cataracts and the sun.

Cataracts and Bright Sunlight: What’s the Link?

Historically, theories about the relationship between sun exposure and cataracts have been contradictory. One 2020 study conducted in India showed that sun exposure had a significant association with cataract development, while an earlier study performed in Spain couldn’t establish a link between adult sun exposure and cataracts (though it did show an association between UV exposure at younger ages and nuclear cataracts later in life). But based on a growing body of evidence, the National Eye Institute and American Academy of Ophthalmology alike confirm that long-term exposure to UV radiation can indeed increase your risk of developing cataracts.

Just as UV rays can damage your skin, they can also have a detrimental effect on the tissue in your eyes. Specifically, these harmful rays target proteins in your lens, which ordinarily remain transparent to allow light to pass through. UV exposure leads to a process known as glycation, a harmful oxidative reaction that changes these cells in your lens, prompting them to form clumps that scatter light. The result is the telltale foggy vision patients with cataracts experience, as well as the visible clouding of the eye’s lens.

How Can You Protect Your Eyes Against UV Rays?

While the relationship between cataracts and bright sunlight is somewhat complex, protecting your eyes against UV radiation is simple. Here are some easy ways to prevent harmful sun exposure year-round.

  • Wear sunglasses that protect against 100% of UV rays, including UV-A and UV-B. Put them on even when it’s cloudy out, since UV rays can still pass through on overcast days.
  • Wear a broad-brimmed hat for additional protection.
  • Try to stay indoors when the sun’s rays are strongest, from noon to early evening.
  • Be mindful of indirect sources of sunlight, which can also cause UV exposure. These include reflections off water, glass, and snow, for instance.

What If You Already Have Cataracts?

If you’ve already been diagnosed with cataracts, sensitivity to light can be an uncomfortable symptom. The protective measures above will be especially important for avoiding further discomfort. But if you find that your cataracts are interfering with your quality of life, whether due to clouded vision or light sensitivity, there are treatment options available.

Cataract surgery is considered a safe and effective treatment with high success rates. The outpatient procedure is typically done in an hour or less, and involves replacing your damaged lens with an artificial one. Most patients find that their vision improves within several days after the procedure.

Schedule an Appointment With Our Eye Care Team

Whether you’re considering treatment for cataracts or you’re simply due for a routine eye exam, the eye care team at SouthCoast Health can help. Offering comprehensive services including surgical procedures as well as general optometry, our award-winning eye doctors will keep all of your vision needs in sight. Schedule an appointment online or by calling 912.527.5200.

Whether you are looking for a primary care doctor or a pediatrician, or another medical specialist, SouthCoast Health has you covered with its wide range of world-class healthcare services, available throughout the Coastal Empire and Lowcountry. SouthCoast Health has 120 physicians and medical professionals in 18 locations in Savannah, Richmond Hill, Pooler, Rincon, Baxley, Hilton Head, Hinesville, and Statesboro. SouthCoast Health offers comprehensive medical services including: Family Medicine, Internal Medicine, Pediatrics, Allergy and Asthma, Cardiology, Endocrinology, Eye Care, Imaging, Infectious Diseases, Nephrology, Neurology, Physical Therapy, Podiatry, Surgery, Clinical Trial Research Studies, Diabetic Self-Management Training Sessions, Dietetic Counseling, Laboratory Services, Massage Therapy, Optical Shop, Pharmacy, and Urgent Care.

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