Protecting Your Eyes from the Sun

We are in peak-summer and that means lots of sunshine.  And lots of potential for sun-related damage to your eyes and skin.  Sunlight contains ultraviolet(UV) light/radiation, which is known to damage vital parts of the eye, specifically the lens and the retina.  Blocking UV light will reduce the risk of early cataract (clouding of the lens), and retinal damage, including to the most vital part of the eye, the macula. 

Most commercially-available sunglasses block almost all UV light; however, to be sure, look for a label that says “UV 400,” which indicates that the glasses block the most harmful wavelengths of the UV spectrum.  Good sunglasses, however, may not be adequate protection, especially in the midday sun, and when spending time in or near the water. (Water and snow are particularly good at reflecting light.)  

Strong direct or reflected sunlight can makes its way underneath or around the edge of many styles of sunglasses.  Wrap-around sunglasses offer better protection, and a hat with a visor can block strong overhead sunlight in the middle of the day.  A hat keeps the sun off the scalp, and a visor protects the delicate skin around the eyes, and the eyelids, which are common sites of skin cancer and skin damage (“wrinkles”).  A hat with flaps to protect the ears, and part of the neck, is advisable when one is going to experience prolonged exposure to the midday sun, such as while fishing, sailing, or playing golf. 

In addition to offering UV protection, sunglasses should be comfortable and fit snugly so as not to slip down the nose.  A strap attached to the glasses behind the ear may be necessary to hold the glasses in place if you engage in active sports or lots of sudden movement.

And remember, always apply sunscreen to the face, ears, cheeks, and other exposed skin, taking care to avoid the eyes.  Reapply every few hours or after swimming to ensure the best protection.  As our dermatology colleagues are fond of saying: “Use your head; don’t get red.”

Protecting Your Eyes from the Sun