Purpose and methods: It is likely that we currently receive a greater lifetime exposure to ultraviolet radiation (UVR) than earlier generations due to increased UVR reaching the earth's surface, our longer life expectancy, and increased activities in UV intense environments. This elevated UVR exposure is likely to lead to a higher incidence of acute and chronic ocular and skin radiation trauma. We reviewed the evidence in the current literature supporting these assertions as well as reports of preventive strategies for blocking UVR.
Results: Hawaii is the most UV-intense location on earth as it has the lowest ozone thickness values ever recorded outside the Antarctic zone. It is anticipated that the overall ozone depletion will continue into the next millennium. Significant evidence suggests a correlation between UVR exposure and conjunctival pterygium, photokeratitis, climatic droplet keratopathy and cataracts. The incidence of skin cancer is also on the rise as a result of the increased amount of UVR reaching the earth secondary to the thinning ozone.
Conclusions: There are compelling reasons to counsel our patients on the adverse effects of UVR and to offer them the various options available for UV protection. Sunglasses and UV blocking ophthalmic lenses traditionally have been the most commonly selected forms of UVR protection. The UV blocking hydrogel contact lens, a recent addition to our armamentarium, is a means of blocking UVR.