Sun Worshipers, Beware!
After a long, frozen winter, we cheer
when the sun finally begins to warm the Earth. But beware of the power of
this life-giving, dazzling star! As we spend more time outdoors at
beaches, ballgames, parks and pools, the sun’s constant UV (ultraviolet)
light radiation can damage our eyes.
Over time, too much UV exposure
can lead to cataracts or macular degeneration, leading causes of vision
loss among seniors. The sun can also cause skin cancer around the eyelids,
abnormal growths on the surface of the eye and even (though rarely) sunburn
of the eye. UV-A rays penetrate the most deeply, causing the skin to tan
and doing the most long-term damage to both eyes and skin. UV-B is the
shorter ultraviolet light wavelength that causes burns to the skin and the
front of the eye.
When skin is left unprotected, we may develop
painful sunburn; when eyes go unprotected, however, we remain largely
unaware of the harm being done. Eye damage from long-term exposure to the
sun’s UV rays is so gradual that it is not felt. This underscores the
importance of protecting our eyes when outdoors.
Scientists have found
a link between development of cataracts and depletion of the Earth’s ozone
Test Your Sun Smarts
We all know the value of guarding
against sunburn and skin cancer by slathering on sunscreen, and most of us
wear sunglasses in summer to shield our eyes from glare. When it comes to
preserving eyesight over the long term, however, many of us have
misconceptions about the sun’s dangers. Do you know the facts behind these
- Myth #1: Sunglasses are not necessary in winter.
Fact: The damaging effects of UV rays are present during winter as
well as summer. Sunglasses with UV protection are necessary whenever you
spend time outdoors during daylight hours, all year round.
#2: On overcast days, UV rays are not harmful.
because the sun is not glaring brightly does not mean its UV rays are not
affecting the eyes. If there’s daylight, UV rays are present. They
penetrate through haze and clouds, and reflect off water, white sand,
pavement and snow.
- Myth #3: Our eyesight deteriorates with age simply
because we get older.
Fact: This is true to some extent, but
the fact is that a lifetime of exposure to UV light increases the likelihood
of developing macular degeneration, cataracts and other eye conditions.
There is scientific evidence of a link between development of cataracts and
depletion of the Earth’s ozone layer, which allows more unfiltered UV light
to reach us. If we protect our eyes, however, our chances of maintaining
good eye health into old age are greatly increased.
- Myth #4:
Adults’ eyes are at a higher risk of sun damage than children’s.
Fact: Just the opposite is true. Children’s eyes are especially
vulnerable to sun damage because they are still developing. Their pupils
are larger, allowing in more light, and the lenses of their eyes are more
transparent. They also spend more time outdoors than most adults. Brief
but intense UV contact may cause corneal sunburn, the most immediate danger
to children’s eyes from sun overexposure. No long-term damage results, but
it can be painful for a few days.
- Myth #5: Only the sun emits
Fact: Artificial light sources, such as
tanning beds and welding machines, also produce UV radiation and require
eye protection during use.
Remember: Shades, Hat, Veggies
Here are the best ways to protect your eyes:
- When spending time outdoors, wear protective
eyewear, such as Transitions® lenses or polarized sunglasses, that blocks
99 to 100 percent of UV-A and UV-B rays.
- Wear a wide-brimmed hat or
cap, which will block about half of UV rays.
are especially vulnerable to sun damage because they are still
- Remember that UV rays reflect off bright surfaces
such as water, snow, white sand and pavement, making it
critical—especially for children—to wear sunglasses and hats in the snow or
at the beach, swimming pool or playground.
- Always wear protective
goggles when using a tanning bed or welding machine.
- Eat a healthy
diet. There is scientific evidence that a diet rich in brightly colored
fruits and vegetables helps reduce the risk of sun damage to your
Many bright summer days are ahead. Enjoy outdoor
activities safely by protecting your eyes—and those of your children—from
Download as PDF
Blindness America, American Optometric Association, Vision Monday, U.S.
News & World Report, The Canadian Press