Light damage revisited: converging evidence, diverging views?

Graefes Arch Clin Exp Ophthalmol. 1996 Jan;234(1):2-11. doi: 10.1007/BF00186512.


Are observations on ultraviolet (UV)- and visible light-induced ocular changes in animals relevant for human pathology? Different conclusions are drawn by different groups, depending on their perspective: while in the epidemiologist's view the evidence for those lesions is mostly limited or insufficient, laboratory scientists continually extend observations on radiation damage in animals. Consequently, there are diverging views on the necessity and specifications for eye protection. In this review, problems of epidemiological surveys and observations in humans and animal studies are discussed, and natural and artificial protection of the eye is outlined. The human and animal eye has an inherent potential for photochemical lesions due to chromophores including the visual pigments that are present at birth. Lifelong light exposure gives rise to additional absorbing molecules. With decreasing wavelengths of the electromagnetic spectrum the number of absorbing molecules rises; therefore, the likelihood of a photochemical reaction grows. As the spectral energy is augmented, more damage will occur. In our view, the knowledge gained from laboratory studies is a significant component of the total evidence from different fields-epidemiology, clinical observations, model studies and theoretical calculations-that UV radiation and short-wavelength visible light can cause acute and chronic changes in ocular structures. Such changes may comprise irreversible damage. Following recently issued recommendations of the major visual health organizations in the United States, protection against UV and blue light should be incorporated into the spectrum of safety considerations for sunglasses.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Absorption
  • Animals
  • Eye / radiation effects*
  • Humans
  • Light / adverse effects*
  • Radiation Injuries / etiology*
  • Radiation Injuries / prevention & control
  • Radiation Injuries, Experimental / etiology*
  • Radiation Injuries, Experimental / prevention & control
  • Ultraviolet Rays / adverse effects