Did You Know?
- UV radiation, both from natural sunlight and from indoor artificial UV rays, can damage the eyes.
- People with light colored eyes (blue, green, hazel) are more photosensitive or vulnerable to UV rays.
- More than 50% of people surveyed mistakenly believe that darker lenses provide better eye protection.1
- Polarized lenses reduce glare from reflective surfaces but do not offer more protection from the sun.
- 47% of people who wear sunglasses say they do not check the UV rating before buying them.1
Dangers of Ultraviolet Rays
UV radiation, both from natural sunlight and from indoor artificial UV rays, can damage both the cornea on the surface of the eye, as well as the internal parts of the eye, such as the lens and retina. Possible consequences of UV exposure:2
- Cataracts that can cause vision loss and blindness
- Corneal sunburn that can cause temporary vision loss
- Skin cancer around eyelids
- Abnormal growths (“Pterygium”) on the white of the eye
Who Is at Risk?
Everyone! People of all ages should take precautions whenever outdoors. Everyone should also be aware of factors that place them at higher risk, such as:
- Working long hours outdoors in the summer
- Work at altitude outdoors in the winter
- Spending unprotected time at the beach
- Not wearing sunglasses and hats outside
- Spending time in water, sand, and snow without eye protection
Other risks include prior surgery for cataracts or age-related macular degeneration, certain medications, and genetic factors such as light-colored eyes and a family history of eye cancer. 1,2
Be aware of common misconceptions about sunglasses!
- It doesn’t matter if they do not block 100% UV rays. False!
- Darker lenses protect better. False!
- Polarized lenses protect your eyes from UV rays. False!
What Can You Do?
The single most important thing to do is to protect your eyes with the appropriate sunglasses and wear them in any season or location where the sun’s reflective rays impact your eyes and vision. Be sure to select sunglasses that have a sticker or tag indicating they block 100% of UV rays. Dark lenses do not necessarily block more UV rays, and while polarization reduces glare, it does not offer more protection from the sun.
Here are additional tips from the American Academy of Ophthalmology2:
- Wear a hat (preferably with a broad rim) in addition to sunglasses.
- Be aware that harmful UV rays can pass through clouds and hazy conditions.
- Protect children and elderly with sunglasses and hats (and sunscreen!).
- Be aware that the sun is strongest between midday and early afternoon.
- Be aware that UV rays are stronger at higher altitudes and when reflected off water, ice or snow.
- Never look directly at the sun!
Finally, do not forget about indoor sources of artificial UV light such as welding machines, tanning beds and lasers! 3
Sun Smart UV Safety Infographic, American Academy of Ophthalmology’s Harris Poll (Accessed 4-29-22); 2. The Sun, UV Light, and Your Eyes (Accessed 4-29-22); 3. Protecting Your Eyes from Solar Radiation. American Optometric Association (Accessed 4-29-22).