You have probably heard a lot about sun safety including the importance of wearing sunscreen and staying out of the sun when it's hottest and sun rays are the strongest. However, the common safety advice usually does not tell you how to protect your eyes. The sun's rays are extremely powerful, so it is just as important to protect your eyes as it is your skin. Without proper eye protection, you can develop eye diseases later in life. Researchers say that 80 percent of a person's sun exposure occurs before he or she turns 18 years of age, so it is especially important for kids to take care of their eyes.
- How can the sun damage your eyes?
- How do you protect your eyes?
- What are the different kinds of lenses?
How can the sun damage your eyes?
UVB rays can cause sunburn on the cornea and photokeratitis, a growth on the cornea called pterygium, and cloudy vision called cataracts. UVA rays can damage the retina, which is the thin membrane in the back of the eye, and can also lead to cataracts.
Between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m., the sun's rays are strongest and do the most damage. If you can, avoid being in direct sunlight for extended periods of time during these peak hours.
Back to top
How do you protect your eyes?
Wearing the right sunglasses is the best protection. Here are some things to look for when picking a pair of sunglasses:
- Make sure that at least 99 percent of UVA and UVB rays are blocked.
- Sunglasses that wrap around the face provide the most protection because they block the most sunlight.
- The best lenses are the darkest and grayest. They block the most rays.
- Choose sunglasses that are not so dark that they interfere with vision.
Back to top
What are the different kinds of lenses?
- Clip-on lenses attach to regular glasses. They can be useful, but sometimes they fall off or scratch the lens of the regular glasses.
- Photochromatic lenses change color according to the brightness of the light and the temperature. They can be helpful if you wear glasses because you don't have to have a separate pair of glasses for indoors and outdoors.
- Polarizing lenses lessen the amount of glare, so they are good for drivers.
- Gradient lenses are different colors in different parts of the lenses. These can be useful if they are darker at the top because the rays are coming from overhead.
- For kids especially, the best kinds of lens are made of a material called polycarbonate. These lenses do not break or shatter very easily.
Back to top
Author: Julia Ransohoff, high school student writer
The Sun and Your Eyes: What You Need to Know (pdf), National Women's Health Resource Center.
Sunglasses (pdf), Prevent Blindness America.