UV Eye Protection and Sunglasses

The sun emits three kinds of ultraviolet radiation: UVA, UVB and UVC. While UVC is absorbed by the Earth’s atmosphere, UVB radiation is only partially blocked and can burn the skin and eyes. UVA rays are not filtered and cause the most damage to vision health. The Vision Council’s most recent VisionWatch survey reveals American adults experience symptoms from prolonged UV exposure like:

  • Irritation in the eye (15.5%).
  • Trouble seeing (13.5%).
  • Wrinkles around the eye (8.3%).
  • Red or swollen eyes (5.9%).
  • Sunburn on the eyelids (3.7%).
  • Sunburn of the eye (2.5%).
  • Cancer on or around the eye (.6%).

Additionally, the most common time American adults report spending time outdoors is between 2 p.m. and 4 p.m. (39.8%), and the number one thing that concerns them most about UV eye exposure is vision loss (28.2%). However, 27% report they do not typically wear sunglasses when they are outside.

Additional findings show that American adults are most likely to wear sunglasses while:

  • Driving a vehicle (68.6%).
  • Casually relaxing or spending time outdoors (55.2%).
  • Near a body of water (49.1%).
  • Watching a sporting event (33.7%).
  • Playing a sport or exercising outdoors (29.5%).

Sports Sunglasses

In addition to preventing sports-related eye injuries, protecting your eyes from the sun’s damaging UV rays while outdoors is also important. Even golfers and swimmers should find the proper eyewear to ensure that they are keeping their eyes safe while achieving their peak performance.

Common UV Protection Q&A

Q: Does the darkness of the lenses equate to higher UV protection?

A: No. However, 39.4% of American adults believe it does. Dark lenses without adequate UV protection can be worse than wearing no sunglasses at all because they cause the eye’s pupil to dilate, which then increases retinal exposure to unfiltered UV.

Q: Do all sunglasses offer UVA/UVB protection?

A: No. Since shielding the eyes from damaging radiation is crucial, it is imperative to look for a label, sticker or tag indicating UV protection before purchasing a pair of sunglasses.

Q: When do UV rays affect the eyes?

A: UV radiation exists year-round, so despite the season or weather. So it is important to wear proper eye and skin protection while outside during daylight hours.

Q: What should be considered when purchasing a pair of sunglasses?

A: Protection, daily activities, comfort and personal style.

Important Steps to Maintaining Eye Health

Two things you can do to maintain eye health is to develop the habit of wearing sunglasses whenever they are outdoors during daylight hours and to have an annual comprehensive eye exam with an eyecare provider. Only 27% of American adults report they have an annual eye exam and talk to their eyecare provider about UV eye protection, and 29.7% report their child(ren) has an annual eye exam and talk to their eyecare provider about their UV eye protection.

However, eyecare providers can make recommendations regarding sunglasses tailored to an individual’s unique vision and lifestyle needs. Additionally, sunglasses are also considered a style accessory that can elevate any look and correspond with your varying activities.