Ultraviolet Radiation
Ultraviolet Radiation

Who doesn’t enjoy a day of fun under the sun? While we’re aware of the skin damage excessive sun exposure can cause, it’s important to note that its ultraviolet (UV) rays can also harm our eyes.  Many people are aware of the risks of skin cancer caused by excessive exposure to ultraviolet (UV) light. As a result, they apply sunscreen to their skin before going outside. However, protecting our eyes from UV light is just as important. 

Studies have shown that over one-third of adults have experienced symptoms from prolonged UV exposure, such as eye irritation, impaired vision, and red or swollen eyes. The good news is that protecting your eyes is just as easy as protecting your skin. This blog post provides some tips to keep in mind.

What is UV

The sun emits various types of UV rays, with UVA and UVB being particularly concerning as they are not fully absorbed or altered by the atmosphere. This means they can pose a risk to both eyes and skin. The level of risk depends on several factors, including geographic location, altitude, and time of day. UV levels are higher in tropical areas near the equator and increase at higher altitudes. UV levels are typically higher from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Other factors that affect the risk of UV exposure include your surroundings and the medications you take. For example, environments with highly reflective surfaces like sand and snow can result in higher UV exposure compared to urban areas with many tall buildings providing shade. Surprisingly, seasonal changes have less impact than expected. Despite feeling the sun more in summer, winter can be twice as dangerous due to the high reflectivity of snow.

Why Are Eyes at Risk?

UV radiation, originating from the sun, has a harmful impact on eye health. Exposure to UV rays can lead to various eye problems, including cataracts, macular degeneration, pingueculae, pterygia, photokeratitis, and eye and skin cancers.

  • Cataracts: The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that up to 20 percent of cataract cases are preventable and can be attributed to UV radiation.
  • Macular Degeneration: Age-related macular degeneration (AMD), a leading cause of blindness in adults aged 60 and older, has been significantly associated with early AMD due to higher UV exposure at a younger age.
  • Pingueculae and Pterygia: These visible growths on the eye’s surface can lead to corneal issues and vision distortion.
  • Photokeratitis: Also known as snow blindness, photokeratitis is like a sunburn on the cornea, causing temporary vision loss and significant discomfort.
  • Cancer: The Skin Cancer Foundation reports that a tenth of all skin cancers are found on the eyelid. Exposure to UV radiation, especially UVB, is a primary cause of eyelid tumours. Additionally, nearly 3,000 intraocular cancer cases are diagnosed annually in the U.S.

Many people are unaware of how much damage their eyes sustain during their younger years. UV exposure accumulates over a lifetime, making it impossible to reverse skin or eye damage that has already occurred. However, you can reduce the risk of further damage. If you’re young or have young children, take advantage of this knowledge and increase sun protection to mitigate future risks.

How to Stay Safe?


It’s important to protect your eyes from harmful UV rays, just like you protect your skin with sunscreen. Sunglasses are a great way to do this, but not all sunglasses are created equal. Some may not provide adequate protection, so it’s important to check the labels or examine them with  optometrists in Beaches Toronto or Rosedale Toronto. Ensuring that your shades block 100 percent of UV rays is crucial.

Contrary to popular belief, the color of your sunglass lenses has little impact on UV protection. Whether they’re amber, grey, or brown matters less than the built-in UV protection each lens offers.

When it comes to frame style, close-fitting and wraparound styles offer better protection as they block more rays from entering through the sides of the frames. Additionally, wearing a wide-brimmed hat can provide an extra layer of protection.

It’s important to remember that you should protect your eyes even on overcast days. Reflected UV rays can be harmful all year round. In summer, rays reflected from buildings, sand, and lakes can pose a hazard. Similarly, in winter, reflected UV rays can also be harmful.


In conclusion, protecting our eyes from UV radiation is just as important as protecting our skin. UV rays can cause various eye problems, including cataracts, macular degeneration, pingueculae, pterygia, photokeratitis, and eye and skin cancers. To reduce the risk of damage, it’s important to wear sunglasses that block 100% of UV rays, choose close-fitting or wraparound styles, and wear a wide-brimmed hat.  By taking these simple steps, we can protect our eyes and prevent long-term damage.


Q: Are there any long-term effects of UV radiation on the eyes?

Long-term exposure to UV radiation can contribute to the development of cataracts and age-related macular degeneration (AMD), which can lead to vision loss. Protecting your eyes from UV radiation can help reduce these risks.

Q: Can I get enough UV protection from tinted or polarized lenses?

Tinted and polarized lenses may reduce glare and improve visual comfort, but they do not necessarily provide UV protection. For adequate protection, look for sunglasses specifically designed to block UV rays.

Q: How can I tell if my sunglasses offer adequate UV protection?

Look for sunglasses that are labeled as providing “100% UV protection” or “UV400.” Additionally, consider purchasing sunglasses from a reputable retailer to ensure their authenticity.