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What Exactly Are UV Rays?

As July has become synonymous for its devastating heat and scorching sunny days, it only seems fitting that it was declared National UV Safety Month. Now UV rays have been mentioned in countless sunscreen and skincare marketing campaigns, but do any of us really know what these rays are? In honor of UV Safety Month, we will discuss not only what these rays are, but how to protect oneself from their harmful effects.

What are UV Rays?

Ultraviolet rays are a form of energy that radiates from the sun found relatively in the middle of the electromagnetic spectrum. Energy on this spectrum can come in various forms that range all the way from low energy radio waves to extremely high energy gamma rays. Close to UV rays on this spectrum, with slightly less energy, is visible light.

Is There More Than One Kind of UV Ray?

Yes! Similarly to the color spectrum of visible light in which various energy levels and wavelengths produce different colors, ultraviolet rays also have their own energy levels that produce different levels of radiation.

UVA: One of the most popular forms of UV radiation is UVA, which contains the least amount of energy within the ultraviolet ray spectrum. Thus, it has similar components to its neighbor on the electromagnetic spectrum of visible light. As a result, UVA rays are very damaging to the human eye.

UVB: In the middle of the UV ray spectrum is UVB radiation, which is only partially blocked by the earth’s ozone layer. UVB radiation sparks the manufacturing of melanin in the skin. Thus, UVB rays are responsible for changes in skin tone and in more severe cases skin cancer.

UVC: If you have never heard of UVC rays, there is a good reason. This form of ultraviolet radiation, although containing the highest level of energy, cannot pierce the ozone layer. As a result, it has limited effects on us here on Earth.

What are the Ways We Can Protect Ourselves from UV Rays?

Now that we have explained the basic science behind ultraviolet rays, here are some simple precautionary measures you can take to ensure you are protected from their damaging effects:

  • Wear sunglasses that shield 100% of UV Rays
  • Apply sunscreen throughout the day, especially if you plan on being outdoors for an extended period of time
  • Wear long sleeved clothing
  • Avoid areas of direct sunlight

For more information on how to better protect your eyes, or to schedule an eye exam call or visit your local Nationwide Vision. Our expert staff would be happy to schedule you an exam with one of the professional and caring doctors of Nationwide Optometry.