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The Other Dangers of UV Radiation


We have talked a lot in these posts about the dangers of ultraviolet radiation when it comes to your skin and skin cancer. We have dedicated entire blogs just to exactly how ultraviolet radiation damages our skin and how cancer can grow from that damage. But what we haven’t talked about is what other ailments and health conditions can come from UV damage. While UV rays only make up a small portion of the light that comes from the sun, they can still cause a lot of damage to your skin and not only increase your risk for getting skin cancers but cause you to develop other conditions as well. 

Now remember, there are three main types of ultraviolet rays, UVA, UVB, and UVC. UVC rays are not in the sun’s light because they can’t get through our atmosphere. UVA and UVB are the ones that cause the most damage. There are many other types of UV rays but humans are not affected by them as most can not get through our atmosphere. Now what ultraviolet light is is an electromagnetic radiation. The radiation is shorter in wavelength than visible light, so in most cases it is invisible, but it’s longer than X-rays.[1] Without our ozone and atmosphere most life on earth would cease to exist because of the strength of UV rays. Luckily our ozone is able to filter out much of the damage. But the rays still carry some danger.

 

Wrinkles and Age Spots

One of the minor aspects you have to worry about with UV damage are wrinkles and age spots. I say minor because while we may not like to see our skin age, there are worse things that can come from UV damage. But yes, UV light does cause skin to age much faster. The culprit is thought to be UVA rays. These rays directly age skin cells and damage their DNA causing wrinkles, age spots, and dark spots. This damage can make a person appear much older than their biological age. So, before you are going out to buy expensive wrinkle diminishing cream, try a sun hat and sunblock first!

 

Liver Spots, Actinic Keratosis, and Solar Elastosis

These three conditions are types of sun damage you can get from too much UV light. Each causes your skin to look and feel differently. Liver spots are dark spots on the skin. There is no cure for liver spots but some treatment may lighten them. Actinic keratosis is a condition where rough scaly patches can form on many parts of the body including the face, lips, ears, and back of hands. This condition can develop into cancer and is usually removed by a dermatologist out of precaution. Solar elastosis is another condition which affects the appearance of skin. It makes skin appear thick and yellow due to sun damage. While there are many different treatments for all these conditions, many can be expensive so taking precaution now and preventing the damage before it starts is key.[2]



Eye Problems

UV damage can also cause permanent damage to your eyes. Not only can it cause the cornea of your eye to become inflamed or burned, but it can also cause cataracts and pterygium which can both can impair vision and/or blind you. The best way to protect your vision is to buy sunglasses that are certified to protect you against UV radiation.[3] This way the skin around your eyes and your eyeball are both protected from long term sun exposure.

 

Weakening of the Immune System

Long term continued exposure to UV radiation can cause the immune system to weaken. According to Cancer.org, “this can lead to problems such as reactivation of herpes triggered by exposure to the sun or other sources of UV rays. It can also cause vaccines to be less effective.” Because of this many other skin conditions or autoimmune diseases can be made worse do to UV radiation.[4]

It’s important to talk to your doctor about how UV radiation may affect any health issues and how to take preventative action to protect yourself from the sun.

 

References:

[1] Zeman, Gary. "Hps.org." Health Physics Society. HPS.

[2] "UV and Solar Radiation Damage (57-62)." JRR Journal of Radiation Research 40.4 (1999): 389.

[3] ibid.

[4] "What Is Ultraviolet (UV) Radiation?" Cancer.org. American Cancer Society, 03 Mar. 2015.

Misha Kaura