Tips to Keep Your Eyes Sun Safe

SunglassesIt’s summer, which means time for outdoor fun. As you slather up with sunscreen and head out to the pool, the beach, or just for a walk, don’t forget to protect your eyes.

During the summer, UV radiation is about three times higher than it is during the winter, and we tend to spend more time outside. Studies show that over time exposure to sunlight can damage your eyes. It can contribute to cataract formation, macular degeneration, growths on the eye, and even lead to cancer within the eye.

Sunglasses are one way of protecting the lens of the eye and the cells of the macula from being damaged from the ultra-violet radiation. The photoreceptor cells of the macula are especially susceptible to damage. This is why it’s important to wear sunglasses that will filter out the ultra-violet radiation.

When shopping for that perfect pair of shades, take these factors into consideration:

  • Look for sunglasses that block 99 percent or 100 percent of all UV light. Some manufacturer’s labels say “UV absorption up to 400nm.” This is the same thing as 100 percent UV absorption.
  • Polarized lenses cut reflected glare, such as glare from the windows of a car or glare off of the water. They can be particularly useful for driving and fishing. Polarization has nothing to do with UV light absorption, so read the labels carefully.
  • Darker lenses may be more comfortable, but lens tint has nothing to do with UV absorption.
  • It is not clear if blue light causes eye damage; if you like blue-blocking lenses (usually amber-colored), great; if not, don’t worry about it.
  • Don’t worry about claims about “Infrared Protection.” The eye tolerates infrared light well, and it has not been shown to cause damage.
  • All sunglasses must meet safety impact standards set by the FDA. While no lens is truly unbreakable, polycarbonate plastic sunglasses are especially tough. If you buy polycarbonate lenses, look for ones with scratch-resistant coatings since polycarbonate tends to scratch easily.
  • Bigger is better! Wrap-around lenses provide a lot more protection than smaller lenses. Don’t worry—you don’t have to wear cataract glasses!

If you have had cataract surgery it is even more important for you to wear protective lenses to provide maximal protection of the retina. Even though newer intraocular lenses (IOLs) provide more UV protection than older IOLs did, extra sun protection is still important.

In general, medications that make your skin more sensitive to sunlight also make your eyes more sensitive to sunlight. Children are also particularly susceptible to sun damage. Remember to wear your hat too!