July is UV Awareness Month. It is important to protect your eyes with UV blocking eyewear. UV (ultraviolet) rays can cause skin damage of the eye resulting in a tough skin growth known as a pterygium. This growth can become irritated, red, cause a foreign body sensation, and eventually cause vision changes. It can be removed surgically when eye medications do not help, or if it is cosmetically unacceptable. These rays also pass through the pupil center and can damage the sensitive tissue inside the eye. It is possible that UV plays a role in the development of cataracts, which is a clouding of the natural lens inside the eye. UV is a known risk factor for the development and progression of macular degeneration (previously posted here), which is the degeneration of the tissue responsible for clearest vision.
Keep in mind that UV coatings are clear. The tint color on sunglasses are important for different activities, but does not play a role in UV protection. Additionally, polarized eyewear is not the same as UV protection. Polarization lenses help block directional light such as reflection of light off water, and highly recommended for water activities (July is also National Fishing Month!). Remember that on cloudy days UV rays are still reaching through and we need to be protected.