Ultraviolet Rays and Vision Health

Did you know that prolonged exposure to the sun's ultraviolet rays may cause eye conditions that can lead to vision loss and blindness?

Did you know that prolonged exposure to the sun’s ultraviolet rays may cause eye conditions that can lead to vision loss and blindness?

Ultraviolet radiation is composed of invisible high-energy UV-A and UV-B rays from the sun. Recent studies have shown that without protection, prolonged exposure to ultraviolet radiation may cause serious eye conditions such as cataracts and macular degeneration and can lead to vision loss and blindness.

Everyone is at risk for eye damage from the sun and it is important to protect your eyes from the damage caused by even a single outing without protective eyewear. The same UV-A and UV-B rays that can damage skin and cause skin cancer, wrinkles, and premature aging can also damage your eyesight. Similar to sunburns on your skin, burns on the outer surface of the eyes usually disappear within a few days, but may lead to further complications later on. So when you protect yourself from the sun, don’t just think about your skin – think about your eyes too.

UV-Related Facts

  • During the summer months, the level of ultraviolet radiation is three times greater than in the winter.
  • Reflected sunlight off water, snow and pavement can be the most dangerous type of UV light because it is intensified.
  • Of the 20 million people with cataracts, an estimated 20% of these cases may be due to UV-rays.
  • Every year 3.2 million people go blind from eye conditions caused due to prolonged UV exposure.

What Should You Do?

Have fun in the sun, but remember to protect your eyes!

  • To protect your eyes, wear the right kind of sunglasses and a broad-rimmed hat whenever stepping outside, even when it is overcast. Don’t be fooled by a cloudy day, as the sun’s rays can still inflict damage through the clouds.
  • Ask your eye care professional. Sunglasses don’t necessarily mean UV protection. It is a myth that tinted glasses or all sunglasses protect you from UV exposure. UV protection is not a function of the color of the lens but of the material used or treatment applied. Therefore some clear lenses can protect you from harmful UV exposure too.
  • Wear sunglasses that block 100 percent of UV-A and UV-B rays. To check whether your eyewear provides the necessary UV protection, have your eye care professional measure your lenses for UV absorption. The UV meter takes only a few seconds to read and will ensure that you have appropriate UV protective eyewear.
  • Don’t forget protection for the kids. Children are more vulnerable to dangerous UV rays and it is especially important for them to wear hats and sunglasses. Keep children away from the sun between 10:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m. when the sun’s ultraviolet rays are the strongest.
  • Getting a comprehensive eye exam yearly is another important step you can take to help monitor and protect your vision health from UV rays. Early detection is crucial in preventing and treating eye diseases and conditions.