Friday, July 24, 2009

Ocular injuries after solar exposure

Enlace a entrada en español

A digression on the “Astigmatism series”.

Summer is here and many of you had already been on holiday or you are thinking about that, preparing everything to enjoy a well-deserved time for rest :-)

Do not forget to put in the suitcase sunglasses for all your family members (adults and children). Just as you do not forget the sun protection lotions, sunglasses are something indispensable to enjoy some safe holiday.

Think about the time that you are going to be performing outdoor activities, without your eyes being protected. Furthermore, there are more harmful radiations in the beach, because we have to add the ones that are reflected in the sea; but many surfaces reflect those harmful rays (sand, buildings, sidewalks,…). Even in cloudy days, with high clouds, the solar radiation that crosses them is nearly the same one that when there are no clouds at all. Only rain, fog and low clouds reduce UV radiation in a significant way.

Any tissue of the eye, as it happens with the skin, can be burnt. Solar UVA or UVB radiations on the tissues cause a cellular death process and a transformation of cell DNA, which can create irreversible disorders. Therefore, we must take care of our eyes by wearing lenses that comply with health regulations of visual quality. In the case of European sunglasses, the CE mark identifies glasses fulfilling quality regulations.

Atmospheric ozone is a barrier against very detrimental UVC radiation and other UV types; and this moderates the quantity of UVB that arrives to the earth (more harmful than UVA).
The constant slimming of ozone layer causes an increase of the UVB radiation that we receive daily. So, while this keeps being like that (unfortunately), we will have to do everything in our power to protect our eyes.

Some injuries that are caused in the eye due to solar radiation are the following ones:


Cornea and crystalline lens absorb most of UVA and UVB radiation that get into the eye, damaging these structures; therefore, if a person has got a keratoconus or she has undergone a refractive surgery, her cornea will be thinner and it will be able to absorb less radiation, so, this radiation might get into the eye, causing some injuries.

The aqueous humor of the anterior chamber has a lot of Vitamin C (ascorbic acid), which is responsible for filtering UV radiation, and this way, achieving that the least amount possible of radiation gets to the crystalline lens.
  • A prolonged exposure to sunlight decreases the quantity of vitamin C in the aqueous humor.

The same as solar exposure can cause that your skin aged sooner, the same happens with the lens; it might suffer from a premature aging, because of the damages in DNA.

Looking directly at sun (in a eclipse or not), without adequate eye protection, causes a photochemical damage of the photoreceptors, inducing a burn at macular level (area of maximum vision of the retina) and being the reason of an irreversible blindness.
  • Early development of Macular degeneration
  • Melanomas


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