Ultraviolet radiation effects upon the eye: Problems of dosimetry

D. H. Sliney

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The acute phototoxic effect of ultraviolet radiation (UVR) on the eye, photokeratitis (also known as snow blindness or welder's flash), has long been recognised. Less obvious are potential hazards to the eye from chronic exposure. Certain age-related changes to the cornea, conjunctiva and lens are also thought to be related to chronic exposure to solar UVR in certain climates. Determining ocular exposure can be quite difficult. There are many occasions where one views bright light sources such as the sun, arc lamps and welding arcs, but normally only momentarily because of the aversion response to bright light and discomfort glare. During the past few decades guidelines for limiting UVR exposure to protect the eye have been developed. The guidelines were fostered to a large extent by the growing use of lasers and the quickly recognised hazard posed by viewing laser sources. To assess potential hazards, one must not only consider the optical and radiometric parameters of the optical source in question, but also the geometrical exposure factors. This knowledge is required to determine accurately the irradiances (dose rates) to exposed tissues. Thermal injury is rare unless the UV source is pulsed or nearly in contact with tissue. Generally, photochemical interaction mechanisms dominate in the UV spectrum where photon energies are sufficient to alter key biological molecules. A characteristic of photochemically initiated biological damage is the reciprocity of exposure dose rate and duration of exposure, and acute UV effects are therefore most readily observed for lengthy exposure durations of many minutes or hours.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)197-206
Number of pages10
JournalRadiation Protection Dosimetry
Issue number3-4
StatePublished - 1997
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging
  • Radiological and Ultrasound Technology
  • Nuclear Energy and Engineering
  • Radiation

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