With decreasing levels of ozone in the atmosphere, we are being exposed to higher levels of ultraviolet radiation (UVR) than ever before. UVR carries higher energy than visible light, and its effects on tissues include DNA damage, gene mutations, immunosuppression, oxidative stress and inflammatory responses. In the eye, UVR is strongly associated with the development of basal and squamous cell carcinoma of the eyelid, pterygium, photokeratitis, climatic droplet keratopathy, ocular surface squamous neoplasia, cataracts, and uveal melanoma, and is weakly associated with age-related macular degeneration. Despite overwhelming evidence regarding the deleterious effects on UVR, public health measures to encourage UV protection of the eyes is generally lacking. Options for photoprotection include sunglasses, wide brim hats, windshields, plastic films for side windows in cars, UV blocking contact lenses, and following the UV Index report daily. The American National Standards Institute currently has regulations regarding properties of UV blocking sunglasses; however, compliance in the US is not mandatory. On the other hand, UVR does have therapeutic applications in the eye, particularly, riboflavin activated by ultraviolet A light (UVA) radiation is used clinically to slow the progression of keratoconus, post-LASIK keratectasia, and bullous keratopathy by crosslinking corneal collagen fibers. Additionally, riboflavin activated by UVA has been shown to have antibacterial, antiviral, and antiparasitic effects. This is clinically relevant in the treatment of infectious keratitis. Finally, exposure to low levels of light in the UV spectrum has been found to regulate the growth of the eye and lack of adequate exposure may increase the risk of development and progression of myopia.
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