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J Photochem Photobiol B. 2001 Nov 15;64(2-3):136-43.

Ocular phototoxicity.

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Department of Natural Sciences, Fordham University, 113 West 60th Street, New York, NY 10023, USA.


The human eye is constantly exposed to sunlight and artificial lighting. Therefore the eye is exposed to UV-B (295-320 nm), UV-A (320-400 nm), and visible light (400-700 nm). Light is transmitted through the eye and then signals the brain directing both sight and circadian rhythm. Therefore light absorbed by the eye must be benign. Damage to the young and adult eye by intense ambient light is avoided because the eye is protected by a very efficient antioxidant system. In addition, there are protective pigments such as the kynurenines, located in the human lens, and melanin, in the uvea and retina, which absorb ambient radiation and dissipate its energy without causing damage. After middle age there is a decrease in the production of antioxidants and antioxidant enzymes. At the same time, the protective pigments are chemically modified (lenticular 3-hydroxy kynurenine pigment is enzymatically converted into the phototoxic chromophore xanthurenic acid; melanin is altered from an antioxidant to pro-oxidant) and fluorescent chromophores (lipofuscin) accumulate to concentrations high enough to produce reactive oxygen species. We have known for some time that exposure to intense artificial light and sunlight either causes or exacerbates age-related ocular diseases. We now know many of the reasons for these effects, and with this knowledge methods are being developed to interfere with these damaging processes.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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