We all depend on the sun for life (including as a primary source of Vitamin D). However, too much of a good thing can be bad for you. For instance, while humans require only 20 minutes of direct sunlight per day for their health, overexposure to its UV radiation can eventually result in cancer and oxidative damage to the eyes including harm to the lens, retina, and sclera (the white part of the eyeball).
In fact, researchers at Radboud University report that they have found that seniors who were exposed to outdoor sunlight for at least 8 hours a day before retirement were nearly “6-times more likely to develop age-related macular degeneration as they got older than those who worked mostly indoors. The risk was even higher for those (both male and female) who smoked. Other contributing factors include hypertension (high blood pressure), obesity, high fat intake, and atherosclerosis.
Present exposure to sunlight and the color of one’s eyes however, did not seem to play any connection to the development to Age-Related Macular Degeneration. Still, the Radboud study goes a long way in underscoring the importance of wearing sunglasses to protect one’s eyes regardless of age.
For those who may not be familiar with ARMD, it is the gradual degradation of the macula, (the small yellowish area of the retina). When healthy, the macula allows for ”sharp” central vision. However, as the tissue breaks down one’s vision can become hazy. Straight lines may appear wavy. Colors also appear dimmer and people end up having trouble reading and performing other tasks due to the lack of central vision. In the end, all vision may be lost.
Types of macular degeneration
Basically, there are 2 types of macular degeneration. The most severe is known as “wet” AMD. Vision loss with wet macular degeneration is caused by abnormal growth of blood vessels in the eye. In the majority of cases, it follows dry macular degeneration, which occurs when dry fatty deposits are known as drusen (normally manufactured and then reabsorbed into the macula) build up resulting in poor circulation. In addition pressure on the eye’s blood vessels end up causing ruptures that allow blood to leak out and wreak havoc on central vision.
The best way to protect you eyes from excessive sunlight is to wear 100% UVA/UVB sunglasses with amber or brown lenses that are “polarized” to cut down on glare whenever you go outside. To learn more please refer to Diana’s article, An Eye to Buying the Best Sunglasses