Clinical DOVS News Patient Education

How to Protect Your Eyes from UV Radiation

Nathan M Tuttle, OD

Nathan M Tuttle, OD

Instructor, Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences

Ultraviolet (UV) Radiation is a form of energy produced by the sun that is invisible to the human eye. It is widely known that excessive UV exposure increases your risk of skin cancer, but it can also damage your eyes.

Optometrist, Nathan Tuttle, OD, provides some tips on how you can protect your eyes from UV rays and how to choose the right sunglasses for maximum protection.

Too much UV exposure can increase the risk of cataracts, age-related macular degeneration, eye-related cancers, and pterygia (degenerative changes of the conjunctiva and cornea) growths of the eye.  You can even get a sunburn on your corneas (photokeratitis); more common from being out on the water or snow or even from welding without proper eye protection.

Limited exposure to sunlight and therefore UV radiation, can also provide some health benefits. Daily exposure to sunlight can help your body produce vitamin D, boost your mood, and help you sleep better. Time outdoors during the day can decrease how nearsighted children will become as they grow older. Protecting your vision while enjoying fun in the sun is always important.

Ways to protect yourself from UV radiation
  • Wear sunglasses with UV protection
  • Hat with a brim
  • Wear sunscreen
  • Do not look directly at the sun
  • Avoid tanning beds

UV rays can still be of concern on cloudy days. You can check the UV intensity levels expected in your area by using a UV index. The hours of 10 AM and 4 PM are when UV radiation is at its peak.

Sunglasses, how to choose a healthy pair?
  • Only buy sunglasses clearly labeled as providing 100% protection from UV-A and UV-B radiation or having a UV400 rating.
    • UV-A radiation is associated with skin aging, wrinkles, and some forms of cancer. UV-B radiation is associated with sunburn, melanoma skin cancer, and cataracts.
  • Purchase your sunglasses from a reputable manufacturer.
    • This will ensure the UV protection on the label is correct and has been tested. Distortion in lenses can cause blurry vision and eye strain. Inspect the lenses before purchasing by looking through them at straight objects on a wall or floor to make sure the lines stay straight.
  • When choosing a tint, it is mostly your personal preference, but some tints are better for certain activities.
    • Grey tints will not distort colors and are good for driving and outdoor sports.
    • Brown or amber tints can increase contrast (the difference between two colors) and are good for high-glare activities such as fishing.
    • Yellow/orange tints can be good on cloudy days when you still need protection such as during skiing.
  • Polarized lenses have an invisible filter that reduces the amount of light entering your eyes, reducing glare.
    • This is particularly helpful when looking at reflective surfaces such as water, snow, and concrete. By reducing glare, the polarized lenses can make images appear sharper and clearer and thus reduce eye discomfort.
  • If you participate in outdoor activities or work, you should invest in impact-resistant lenses such as those made from polycarbonate.
    • This material will protect your eyes from projectiles and branches. Trail running, racket sports, lawn mowing, and using a weed-eater are just a few activities that could injure your eyes if they are not properly protected.