Most people worry about the effects of ultraviolet rays on the skin. What people don't normally consider is how it's possible to suffer from ultraviolet-related eye injuries. Eye damage brought about by UV rays are cumulative, and has been linked to conditions such as cataracts and macular degeneration. UV rays are usually absorbed by the cornea and the lens, but it is possible that the rays can reach as far back as the retina. Exposure to UV rays for a extended periods of time can cause “sunburn” to the cornea.
Frequently asked questions:
Q: Who is at risk for eye damage?
A: Everyone (including children) are at risk. Every person in every ethnic group is susceptible to eye damage from UV radiation.
Q: When do I need to wear sunglasses?
A: Every day, even on cloudy days. Water, sand, pavement and even snow reflects UV rays, increasing the amount reaching your eye and skin.
Q: What should I look for when choosing a pair of sunglasses?
A: No matter what sunglass styles or options you choose, you should insist that your sunglasses block 99-100 percent of both UV-A and UV-B radiation.
UV rays can damage sensitive tissues of the eye causing cataracts to form and macular degeneration. Sunglasses can help prevent your risk of these diseases along with the prevention of wrinkles and possible skin cancer.
UV Radiation Checklist
If you can answer “yes” to one or more of the following questions, you could be at higher risk for harm to the eyes from UV radiation:
- Do you spend a great deal of time outdoors?
- Do you spend time playing golf, water sports, relaxing at the beach, or even gardening?
- Do you use a sunlamp or tanning bed?
- Do you take prescription or over-the-counter drugs that can increase your sensitivity to UV radiation (check with your optometrist, pharmacist, or physician)?
- Have you had cataract surgery in one or both eyes?
- Choose sunglasses that block 100 percent of UVA and UVB rays.
- Select wraparound styles of sunglasses so that the sun's rays cannot enter from the side of the frame.
- In addition to your sunglasses, wear a hat. Broad-brimmed hats proved the protection for your eyes.
- Don't be fooled by cloudy skies! The sun's rays can pass through haze and thin clouds. Sun damage to eyes can occur anytime of the year, not just summertime, so be certain to wear your sunglasses whenever you're outside.
- Contact lenses do not provide sun protection. You should always remember to wear your sunglasses as well.
- It sounds quite obvious, but never, ever look directly at the sun. Looking directly at the sun at any time, even during an eclipse, can lead to solar retinopathy, which is damage to the eye's retina from solar radiation.
- It's best to try and avoid exposure during peak sun times, which happen between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. This is when the sun's UV rays are the strongest. but if you have to be outside, then it is especially important to shield your eyes with a hat and proper sunglasses.
- Don't forget the kids and older family members: everyone is at risk, including children and senior citizens. Protect their eyes with hats and sunglasses.