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Optical effects of exposing intact human lenses to ultraviolet radiation and visible light

Line Kessel1*, Lars Eskildsen12, Jesper Holm Lundeman1, Ole Bjarlin Jensen3 and Michael Larsen14

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Ophthalmology, Glostrup Hospital, Nordre Ringvej 57, DK-2600 Glostrup, Denmark

2 DTU Fotonik, Department of Photonics Engineering, Technical University of Denmark, ├śrsteds Plads 343, DK-2800 Lyngby, Denmark

3 DTU Fotonik, Department of Photonics Engineering, Technical University of Denmark, Frederiksborgvej 399, DK-4000 Roskilde, Denmark

4 Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Copenhagen, Blegdamsvej 3, 2200 Copenhagen, Denmark

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BMC Ophthalmology 2011, 11:41  doi:10.1186/1471-2415-11-41

Published: 30 December 2011



The human lens is continuously exposed to high levels of light. Ultraviolet radiation is believed to play a causative role in the development of cataract. In vivo, however, the lens is mainly exposed to visible light and the ageing lens absorbs a great part of the short wavelength region of incoming visible light. The aim of the present study was to examine the optical effects on human lenses of short wavelength visible light and ultraviolet radiation.


Naturally aged human donor lenses were irradiated with UVA (355 nm), violet (400 and 405 nm) and green (532 nm) lasers. The effect of irradiation was evaluated qualitatively by photography and quantitatively by measuring the direct transmission before and after irradiation. Furthermore, the effect of pulsed and continuous laser systems was compared as was the effect of short, intermediate and prolonged exposures.


Irradiation with high intensity lasers caused scattering lesions in the human lenses. These effects were more likely to be seen when using pulsed lasers because of the high pulse intensity. Prolonged irradiation with UVA led to photodarkening whereas no detrimental effects were observed after irradiation with visible light.


Irradiation with visible light does not seem to be harmful to the human lens except if the lens is exposed to laser irradiances that are high enough to warrant thermal protein denaturation that is more readily seen using pulsed laser systems.