Over time, the sun’s rays can cause serious damage to our eyes and increase the risk for vision loss from conditions like macular degeneration and cataracts. Sun damage to eyes can occur at any time of year, not just in the summer time. That’s why it is important to wear UV-blocking sunglasses year-round, not just in the summer. However, nearly half (47%) of all sunglass wearers do not check sunglass labels prior to making a purchase and 53% mistakenly believe that sunglasses with darker lenses provide better eye protection. This information from our optometrist in Burlingame, CA is designed to help you learn more about the best ways to protect your vision and reduce your risk for vision loss due to sun damage.

How the Sun Damages Your Eyes

Ultraviolet light (UVA and UVB) are powerful, invisible rays that are the most dangerous part of sunlight. These rays can cause cataracts, eyelid cancer and skin cancer; they may also increase the risk for macular degeneration, which is the leading cause of vision loss in people aged 60 or older. UV rays are also responsible for premature wrinkles around the eyes. The eyelid’s skin is thin and contains many fragile tissues that are vulnerable to UV light. Inside the eye, both the lens and the cornea filter UV rays; however, years of UV absorption can damage these eye parts. The lens is responsible for focusing light in the eye. UV damage can cause the lens to become yellowish and develop cataracts. Over time, UV exposure can also damage the cornea, the outer layer of the eye.

Cataracts are the most common cause of treatable blindness and more than one million operations to remove cataracts are performed each year. Macular degeneration is another serious condition caused by cumulative UV damage to the retina. It is a leading cause of vision loss for people over the age of 60, and unlike cataracts, macular degeneration cannot be reversed. Wearing sunglasses each day is the best defense against developing UV-related eye diseases.

Year-Round UV Protection Matters for People of All Ages & Skin Types

Lighter-colored eyes are more photosensitive. In general, the fairer your skin, the lighter your eyes, and the greater your age, the higher your risk for certain eye diseases. Studies show that UV rays are linked to cataracts, eye cancer, photokeratitis (temporary sun blindness), and pterygium (a growth in the eye). However, indidiuals of all ages, races and ethnic backgrounds are at risk for vision damage due to UV rays and should follow smart sun safety. This includes only purchasing UV-blocking glasses labeled “100% UV protection” or “UV400” and wearing a hat. Ideally, sunglasses should also absorb HEV light. Opt for sunglasses that are large enough to provide sufficient protection for the eyes, eyelids and surrounding areas. Wraparound styles, for example, offer a comfortable and close fit for maximum protection.

For more information on how to best protect your vision, talk to our Burlingame, CA optometrist today.