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How The Sun's Rays Affect Your Eye Health

The dangers of the sun’s harmful rays on our skin have been well publicised. However, the potential damage to our eyes is also something that everyone must consider.

Exposure to UV radiation from natural sunlight (as well as artificial sources) has been shown to be closely linked to a wide range of eye conditions. This includes cataracts, macular degeneration and skin cancer around the eye.

This article takes a look at the effects of the sun’s harmful rays, along with what you can do to help to reduce its impact on your eye health.


What Are UV Rays?

Sunrise on the roofUltraviolet radiation is a type of light that’s invisible to the human eye, and part of the spectrum that reaches us from the sun. UV wavelengths are divided into three types; UVA, UVB and UVC. 

Most UVC from the sun’s rays is absorbed into the ozone layer, preventing it from reaching us on earth. UVA and UVB are both able to penetrate the earth’s atmosphere fully, with UVA making up around 95% of the total rays.

Excessive exposure to UV rays can result in the front surface of the eye becoming damaged, much like sunburn on the skin. Without the proper precautions, these rays can also have harmful cumulative effects that may develop over the course of years. 

Too much exposure to UV rays may result in one or more of the following eye conditions:

  • Cataract: The crystalline lens inside the eye can become clouded, seriously obstructing normal vision.
  • Skin cancer around the eyelids: Skin cancer around the eye most commonly develops as lesions around the lower eyelid, but can also appear on the upper eyelid or the corner of the eye.
  • Pterygium: A non-cancerous growth may develop in the corner of the eye, possibly obstructing the cornea and obstructing vision.
  • Photokeratitis: Highly painful (but usually temporary) burn to the cornea. Most commonly associated with not wearing sunglasses while in locations with a lot of reflected sunlight such as the beach or snowy regions.


Choosing The Best Sunglasses

Woman wearing sunglasses

There are a number of precautions you can take in order to keep your vision safe in the sun. The most obvious step is to wear sunglasses when outdoors. When choosing your sunglasses, consider the following for eye safety:

  • UV-Blocking lenses. Always choose lenses that block 99 to 100 percent of UVA and UVB light. Also look out for whether they block HEV light.
  • Wraparound styles. Large, closely-fitting frames are ideal for protection from the sun. Larger lenses also help to block more of the sun’s rays.
  • Polarised lenses. Polarised lenses help to reduce glare, which can help prevent light-related headaches or migraines. 
  • Durability. It’s usually a good idea to spend a little extra on sunglasses with solid build quality. Broken sunglasses won’t do the best job of protecting your eyes!


Sun Safety


Beyond sunglasses, there are a number of other things to keep in mind when protecting your eyes from the sun. These include:

  • Hats. If you’re going outside when it’s sunny, it’s a good idea to wear a broad-rimmed hat, which helps to block the sun’s rays. 
  • Don’t look into the sun. Never look directly at the sun, even if it doesn’t seem to be causing harm to your eyes at the time. It can be tempting to look during something like a solar eclipse, but it can cause permanent damage to your eye’s retina.
  • Clouds aren’t protection. A cloudy day doesn’t mean there is no danger to your eyes. The sun’s UV rays are able to pass through haze and thin clouds.