In the past several years, there has been an increasing awareness of the damage from the sun and more directly, UV rays. Putting sun block for our skin has become a “must have” on the way to the beach, but how often do you think about sun block for your eyes (sunglasses)?

Some of the risks of UV rays to the eyes, which is higher in lighter colored eyes, is, cancer of the eyes or eyelids, the eventual development of cataracts or macular degeneration (the leading cause of blindness in adults).

The first part of protection is education. Studies show that the majority of UV damage is done by age 18. This is why it is most important for children to have a good pair of sunglasses on when they are outside. You are at most risk for UV damage to the eyes between 8am – 10am and 2pm – 4pm. This is different than high risk for skin (10am – 2pm) due to the angle of which the light reaches the eyes during this time period. Being around water, sand and snow increase the UV risk due to the rays reflecting off these surfaces, and coming at your eyes from both directions. You may hear your eye doctor mention the importance of “Polarized” sunglasses. These lenses dramatically reduce the reflected light from below (my personal favorite type of sun lenses).

It is very important to know that your sunglasses block close to 100% of the full UV spectrum. According to the Wall Street Journal, UVA rays do the most damage to the eyes because they penetrate the deepest. UVB rays will be absorbed mostly by the cornea, which is the front surface of the eye. UVC is not much of a concern and is absorbed by the ozone layer.

Knowing all of this, you can see the importance of good sunglasses, and wearing them at a young age. They even make infant sunglasses with a softer material to keep infants more comfortable wearing shades. So, please ask you eye doctor at your next visit about getting some good sunglasses.

Written By: Dr. Gerald Hanna, OD