Many people understand the link between ultraviolet (UV) radiation and skin cancer, but they are often less aware of the connection between UV radiation and eye damage. With increased levels of UV radiation reaching the Earth’s surface, largely due to stratospheric ozone layer depletion, it is important to take the necessary precautions to protect your eyes.
UV radiation, whether from natural sunlight or artificial UV rays, can damage the eye, affecting surface tissues and internal structures, such as the cornea and lens.
Long-term exposure to UV radiation can lead to cataracts, skin cancer around the eyelids, and other eye disorders.
Short-term exposure to UV radiation from daily activities, including reflections off of snow, pavement, and other surfaces, can burn the front surface of the eye, similar to a sunburn on the skin.
The cumulative effects of spending long hours in the sun without adequate eye protection can increase the likelihood of developing the following eye disorders:
Did You Know?
22.3 million Americans have cataracts.
The direct medical costs of cataracts in the United States is $6.8 billion annually.
The SunWise Program is an environmental and health education program that teaches children and their caregivers how to protect themselves from overexposure to the sun. The program uses classroom, school, and community components to develop sustained sun-safe behaviors in children.
When choosing sunglasses for children, SunWise, in partnership with Prevent Blindness America, recommends that you:
The greatest amount of UV protection is achieved with a combination of: sunglasses that block 99–100 percent of both
UV-A and UV-B rays; a wide-brimmed hat; and for those who wear contact lenses, UV-blocking contacts. Wrap-around sunglasses and wide-brimmed hats add extra protection because they help block UV rays from entering the eyes from the sides and above.
Q: Who is at risk for eye damage?
A: Everyone is 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. Snow, water, sand, and pavement reflect UV rays, increasing the amount reaching your eyes 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.
Q: Do I have to buy expensive sunglasses to ensure that I am being protected from UV radiation?
A: No. As long as the label says that the glasses provide 99–100 percent UV-A and UV-B protection, price should not be a deciding factor.
Q: Do all contact lenses block UV rays?
A: No. Not all contact lenses offer UV protection and not all provide similar absorption levels. Ask your eye care professional for more information, and remember, a combination approach works best!
Exposure to UV radiation has cumulative effects on the eyes. Damage today leads to eye problems tomorrow.
PROTECT YOUR EYES EVERY DAY: WEAR UV-BLOCKING LENSES AND A HAT.