We all love going out in the sun, and most of us are well aware that we need to use high factor sunscreen to protect our skin. However, we also need to provide the same level of protection for our eyes. 

The following details the different ways as to how you can protect your eyes from the danger posed by sunlight.

How the Sun’s UV Rays can Damage Your Eyes

  • The different types of UV rays
  • Eye problems caused by UV rays
  • Who’s at risk from such sun damage

The different types of UV rays

There are three types of UV rays emitted from the sun: UV-A. UV-B, and UV-C. When it comes to damage caused to your eyes, most are attributed to the former two. 

UV-A rays can damage a part of the retina called the macula. UV-B rays are absorbed by the front structures of the eye—the cornea and the lens.

Eye problems caused by UV rays

Eye problems caused by UV rays include:

Macular degeneration: Exposure to UV rays might contribute to the likelihood of this eyesight problem, one that’s a leading cause of vision loss for older people around the world

Photokeratitis: This is caused by short-term, high levels of exposure to UV-B rays. Also known as ‘corneal sunburn’, it’s common after spending time at the beach or skiing without the correct protective eyewear. It’s very painful and can cause vision loss (although this is usually temporary).

Cataracts: While such clouding of the lens of the eye is often considered to be a natural part of the aging process, it’s believed that UV rays might also be responsible to some extent.

Pterygium: This is where a growth begins on the white of the eye and has the potential to extend to affect the cornea. In some cases, it grows and blocks vision. Such problems are generally associated with those who spend a lot of their life outside in the wind and the sun.

Skin cancer: Excessive and prolonged sun exposure to the area around the eyelids has been linked to skin cancer.

Who’s at risk of such sun damage?

Everyone, young and old, is at risk of sunlight-related eye damage. This is further increased in the following situations:

Certain medications can increase the eye’s sensitivity to light. Examples are sulfa drugs, birth control pills, some diuretics, some tranquilizers, tetracycline, and more.

Some people who’ve undergone cataract surgery (although many of today’s advanced implanted lenses are designed to absorb harmful UV rays, in which case this wouldn’t be applicable).

Spending long hours in the sun.

How to Protect Your Eyes From the Sun

  • Sunglasses
  • Other ways to protect your eyes

Sunglasses

Wearing good quality sunglasses is by far the best way to protect your eyes from UV rays. These should be of the kind that absorbs UV rays. Regular glasses and contact lenses should also give protection—many come with extras such as coatings and photochromic lenses, which are extremely effective at blocking UV rays.

Sunglasses should have wide enough lenses that completely cover the eyes.

Other ways to protect your eyes

There are other effective methods of protecting your eyes from the sun. These include:

Wearing a wide-brimmed hat

Limit the amount of time you spend in bright sunlight

Start early. It’s estimated that we absorb almost 80% of our whole lifetime exposure to UV rays before we reach age 18. In addition, children’s eyes transmit more of the harmful rays to the retina than those of adults. While the damage might not be immediately apparent, such damage when young predisposes eye problems later in life.

Trust the West Boca Eye Center for the Ultimate in Eye Health 

The highly experienced team at the West Boca Eye Center is led by a globally-renowned ophthalmologist, Brent Bellotte MD. They’re committed to ensuring the very latest treatments in all aspects of eye health. This includes cutting-edge cataract surgery, advanced laser vision correction, and the ultimate in monitoring and preventative treatment.