UV Rays: Protect Your Eyes Rain or Shine

Quality sunglasses act like sunblock for your eyes.

The same ultraviolet (UV) rays from the sun that burn your skin can also damage your eyes. If you spend time outdoors, you could be at risk for eye problems from UV rays and should always wear sunglasses that block at least 99 percent of both UVA and UVB rays.1 There are three kinds of UV rays:2

  • UVA rays can pass through your eye’s cornea and reach the lens and retina.
  • UVB rays can’t pass through glass, but they can still cause eye damage. UVB rays are the ones that can burn your skin.
  • UVC rays are the highest-energy rays, but they’re blocked by the ozone layer in the atmosphere and don’t reach the earth.

If you spend time outdoors, wear sunglasses that block at least 99 percent of both UVA and UVB rays.

Source: American Optometric Association, “Sunglass Shopping Guide,” 2008.

According to Dr. John Lahr, O.D., divisional vice president, EyeMed Provider Relations and medical director, overexposure to UVA or UVB rays can lead to serious eye problems including photokeratitis (inflammation of the cornea), which can cause temporary vision loss; pingueculea and pterygia (growths on the eye’s surface); damage to the lens and retina; and even burns on the eye’s surface.

Children’s eyes are especially sensitive to UV rays, so it’s important to provide quality sunglasses for them. Adults with eye disorders such as cataracts, macular degeneration and retinal disease are also especially susceptible to UV rays and should take extra precaution. While some contact lenses offer UV protection, they don’t cover the entire eye, so contact lens wearers still need sunglasses. Close-fitting, wraparound sunglasses that block at least 99 percent of both UVA and UVB rays provide the most protection.3

Keep in mind that UV rays are harshest when the sun is high in the sky, from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. The closer you are to the earth’s equator, the stronger they are. They’re also stronger at high altitudes and against the reflective surfaces of snow, water or sand.4

UV rays pass through clouds, so don’t be fooled into thinking protective eyewear isn’t needed when the sky is cloudy. Even though shaded areas reduce UV exposure, your eyes can still be exposed to rays that bounce from buildings, roads and other surfaces.5

So whenever you’re outdoors, it makes sense to keep your eyes—and your family’s eyes—protected with a pair of good sunglasses. Regular eye exams are important so that vision problems can possibly be detected early. Schedule an eye exam today with your eye care professional.

These materials are designed to provide general information regarding health care topics, do not constitute professional advice nor establish any standard of care, and are provided without representations or warranties of any kind. Quotations and photos are not from actual patients and your experience may be different. Your treating health care professionals are solely responsible for diagnosis, treatment and medical advice. The eye care professionals in your plan are independent practitioners who exercise independent professional judgment and over whom EyeMed has no control or right of control. They are not agents or employees of EyeMed. Eye care professionals do not take the place of your physician.

  1. American Optometric Association, “Sunglass Shopping Guide,” 2008.
  2. Sun Safety Alliance, “UV Rays – Invisible and Dangerous,” 2010.
  3. American Optometric Association, “Sunglass Shopping Guide,” 2008.
  4. Sun Safety Alliance, “When and Where Are UV Rays Strongest?” 2010.
  5. Ibid.