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Things I Wished I Would Have Done.

I passed a milestone of sorts in my life yesterday.  I had my first actinic keratosis burned off. Yea!?! Now this is probably not a milestone any of you have marked on your calander but for me it marks the passage into middle age.  I had a little talk with the dermatologist about how I could avoid similar fun in the future and he basically said you can't!  I responded that I am very good about using sun screen now and wouldn't that help.  He pointed to the side of his nose at an obvious scar and said you and I are both in the same boat.  When we were young sunscreen was not around yet and as a result both of us experienced significant exposure to the solar rays in our youth.  This, he explained, has damaged the DNA of our skin and unfortunately he knew of no way of fixing it.  My only recourse now is to wait for more of these nasty little scaley things to appear and when they do go in and have them frozen so that I do not end up with a scar like his.  If only I had known about and been able to protect myself from the harmful effects of Ultra Violet (UV) light in my youth, me and my new dermatologist friend would not become as good of buddies as I think we are about to. Today, I would like to sound the warning cry for others so maybe they can avoid similar but even more devestating ocular effects of UV radiation.  I would also like to discuss the effects of High Energy Visible(HEV) light on the eyes,  which I am guessing most people are less familiar with. 


What Are UV and HEV Light?

Usually when we think of light we think of something that we can see.  This is not the case with UV light.  The visible spectrum of light runs from 380nm-780nm.  UV light has a wave length below 380nm or just  violet light in a rainbow.  It is emitted by natural sources such as the sun and can also be produced by man made sources such as arc welders and mercury vapor lamps.  It is low wave length and high energy and has the ability with extended exposure to cause damage our bodies.  

HEV light has a slightly longer wave length than UV ranging from 380-460.  It is visible as violet to blue light on the rainbow.  It helps to regulate melatonin production within our brains and can also with extended exposure cause damages to our bodies.  It is emitted by the sun and also flourescent lights, flat screen televisionss, computer screens and by all of our portable electronic devices.  It also has a short wave length and high energy and with prolonged exposure can cause damage to our bodies.


What Do UV and HEV Light Do To Us?

I am sure we have all experienced the most common negative effect of UV exposure, sun burn.  In addition to this painful but short term effect UV light sunburncan cause strutural changes to the DNA of the tissues of our bodies.  This can result in everything from pre-cancerous lesions such as the actinic keratosis which I recently had frozen off to deadly cancers like melanoma.  In the eye UV radiation can cause unsightly surface lesions called pterygiums, clouding of the lens of the eye called cataracts and probably the condition which causes the most fear in my patients, Age-related Macular Degeneration(AMD) which results in the loss of the ability to read, recognize faces and drive.

The effects of HEV light are not as noticable initially and so we are just beginning to realize its effects.  Because of its ability to supress melatonin formation, HEV light exposure in the evenings can interfere with our sleep/wake cycle.  I was speaking with my daughter recently and she mentioned that alot of her friends have trouble sleeping at night.  Probably not surprising.  Recent studies have tied extended HEV light exposure to decreased immunity function and increased rates of type II diabetes.  In the eye HEV light is thought to cause cataract formation and AMD similar to UV.


What Can We Do About It?

Staying inside with no flourescent lights or electronic devices on would work but is not very practical.  

For UV we have all been educated on sunscreen and limiting sun exposure.  Just do it.  If you wear glasses make sure the lenses give you 100% UVa and UVb protection.  The lenses can be clear and still offer this. Just ask your eye care professional and they will make sure you have it.  If you don't wear glasses get a good pair of sunglasses.  The sunglasses you bought at the gas station will not do this for you.  Even if they say 100% UV the coating is sprayed on and will wipe off fairly quickly.  A good guide is to spend at least $50 and look for polycarbonate lenses.  Better yet do yourself a favor and buy a really good pair like Maui Jim's.  You will have the protection you need and will be amazed at how much better the world looks and how much more comfortable your eyes are.  

For HEV light we now have coatings that will block these harmful rays as well as UV.  The one we use in our office is called Prevencia.  I now recommend it to all my patients who spend a significant amount of time on electronic devices for school, work or recreation.  

I wish I had had the opportunity to protect my skin when I was younger.  I do have the ability to help my patients protect their eyes now.  I think by doing so I will be able to help them rest better and and have better health and vision because Life is Worth Seeing. 

For more information on blue violet light follow this link.

For an information video on Prevencia follow this link.

Or just give me a call.






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