Protecting Eyes from the Sun’s Ultraviolet Rays

Invisible – but strong and dangerous – the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays pose a serious threat to our eyes and vision health.

Unprotected exposure to the sun’s UV rays can result in immediate, short-term vision consequences like dry eyes, irritation and hypersensitivity to light. More importantly, years of outdoor exposure can destroy cells in the retina and accelerate low vision diseases like cataracts and age-related macular degeneration (AMD).

In fact, the World Health Organization estimates that up to 20 percent of all cataract cases are attributable to UV radiation.

While cataracts and AMD can take years to develop, the risk of disease increases every time we’re exposed to the sun. That’s why sunglasses and other UV-protective eyewear are so important. For individuals with low vision, special precautions and eyewear can make all of the difference.

  • Ask your eye doctor about low vision sunglasses or prescription filters that can both protect your eyes and also optimize your vision. This is particularly beneficial for adults with AMD.
  • If you are older, remember to steer clear of dark-tinted sunglasses as these can minimize contrast and contribute to falls.
  • Consider different lens tints or color options that can enhance your vision during specific activities. For instance, yellow, orange and brown lenses can improve contrast, making it easier to see curbs and steps.
  • Try on polarized lenses to see how glare and reflected sunlight is reduced; polarized sunglasses are often recommended for activities like driving.
  • Don’t be fooled by clouds: the sun’s rays can pass through haze and thin clouds.

By embracing these simple tips, you can enjoy the summer sun safely while protecting your vision. For more on UV radiation and eyes, check out The Vision Council online at And look for our new report on sunglasses and UV protection, which will be available via the website on Tuesday, May 20.

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