Geometrical gradients in the distribution of temperature and absorbed ultraviolet radiation in ocular tissues.

David H. Sliney

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Scopus citations


The geographical variations in the incidence of age-related ocular changes such as presbyopia and cataracts and diseases such as pterygium and droplet keratopathies have led to theories pointing to sunlight, ultraviolet radiation (UVR) exposure and ambient temperature as potential etiological factors. Some epidemiological evidence also points to an association of age-related macular degeneration to sunlight exposure. The actual distribution of sunlight exposure and the determination of temperature variations of different tissues within the anterior segment of the eye are difficult to assess. Of greatest importance are the geometrical factors that influence selective UVR exposures to different segments of the lens, cornea and retina. Studies show that the temperature of the lens and cornea varies by several degrees depending upon climate, and that the incidence of nuclear cataract incidence is greater in areas of higher ambient temperature (i.e., in the tropics). Likewise, sunlight exposure to local areas of the cornea, lens and retina varies greatly in different environments. However, epidemiological studies of the influence of environmental UVR in the development of cataract, pterygium, droplet keratopathies and age-related macular degeneration have produced surprisingly inconsistent findings. The lack of consistent results is seen to be due largely to either incomplete or erroneous estimates of outdoor UV exposure dose. Geometrical factors dominate the determination of UVR exposure of the eye. The degree of lid opening limits ocular exposure to rays entering at angles near the horizon. Clouds redistribute overhead UVR to the horizon sky. Mountains, trees and building shield the eye from direct sky exposure. Most ground surfaces reflect little UVR. The result is that highest UVR exposure occurs during light overcast where the horizon is visible and ground surface reflection is high. By contrast, exposure in a high mountain valley (lower ambient temperature) with green foliage results in a much lower ocular dose. Other findings of these studies show that retinal exposure to light and UVR in daylight occurs largely in the superior retina.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)40-59
Number of pages20
JournalDevelopments in Ophthalmology
StatePublished - 2002
Externally publishedYes


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