Your patient sees sunlight gleaming off the surf. But ophthalmologists see the unseen – UV light. The fact that Ultraviolet Light (UV light) is invisible makes it easy for patients to ignore. (Feel free to use this article on your website, or for print. No credits necessary.)

Ultraviolet light (UV) is non-ionizing radiation that falls within the 180-400-nanometer wavelength region of the electromagnetic spectrum.

The Health Risks of UV Light

Overexposure to UV light doesn’t create immediate warning signs, but patients typically experience erythema (sunburn) or photokeratitis within 4- to 24 hours.

Unfortunately, overexposure to ultraviolet radiation often times has no immediate warning signs. Symptoms of overexposure, including different stages of erythema (sunburn) or photokeratitis (welder’s flash), typically appear 4-24 hours after an exposure has occurred. Genetics and medication, like birth control, can make it worse.

Chronic exposures to short-term UV radiation can lead to the formation of cataracts

Patients may consider wrinkled skin an acceptable tradeoff for a real tan, but photokeratitis can lead to blindness.

UV radiation effectively broils the cornea. Symptoms include a “sand like” feeling in the eye last can last several days. And chronic exposures to short-term UV radiation can lead to the formation of cataracts.

Exposure to UV light damages the retina over time and increases the risk of macular degeneration

Practice UV Safety at Work

The largest source of UV radiation most people are exposed to is the sun. And due to environmental changes, NASA says that our exposure to radiation has increased by more than 30% since the mid 90’s.

There are, however, many other sources of UV, some of which are occupation related. Here’s a partial list…

  • Food and drink irradiators
  • Salon workers and patrons
  • Laboratory workers
  • Lighting technicians
  • Lithographic and printing workers
  • Forensic experts
  • Dentists and assistants
  • Dermatologists and pediatricians
  • General freight truckers
  • Outdoor workers
  • Construction workers
  • Contractors and surveyors
  • Paint and resin curers
  • Physiotherapists
  • Plasma torch operators
  • Welders
  • Agriculture, forestry, fishing
  • Photolithography

And here are some of the devices that radiate UV…

  • Bactericidal lamps
  • Black light lamps
  • Carbon, xenon and other arcs
  • Dental polymerizing equipment
  • Fluorescence equipment
  • Hydrogen and deuterium lamps
  • Ultraviolet nail curing lamps
  • Metal halide lamps
  • Mercury lamps
  • Plasma torches
  • Phototherapy lamps
  • Printing ink polymerizing equipment
  • Welding equipment
  • Counterfeit currency detectors

For patients who want to avoid UV from sunlight, their best bet is a good pair of sunglasses, covering up with light clothing and sunscreen, or going orange with a spray tan.