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Ultraviolet Radiation as a Risk Factor for Cataract and Macular Degeneration

The human eye is constantly exposed to sunlight and artificial lighting. Light transmission through the eye is fundamental to its unique biological functions of directing vision and circadian rhythm, and therefore, light absorbed by the eye must be benign. However, exposure to the intense ambient radiation can pose a hazard particularly if the recipient is over 40 years of age. This radiation exposure can lead to impaired vision and transient or permanent blindness.

Both ultraviolet-A (UV-A) and UV-B induce cataract formation and are not necessary for sight. Ultraviolet radiation is also a risk factor for damage to the retinas of children. The removal of these wavelengths from ocular exposure will greatly reduce the risk of early cataract and retinal damage. One way this may be easily done is by wearing sunglasses that block wavelengths below 400 nm (marked 400 on the glasses). However, because of the geometry of the eye, these glasses must be wraparound sunglasses to prevent reflective UV radiation from reaching the eye. Additional protection may be offered by contact lenses that absorb significant amounts of UV radiation.


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