Four steps protecting your eyes from sun damage


Four steps protecting your eyes from sun damage

Protecting your skin from the sun’s damaging rays is well-documented.  But are you giving your eyes the same protection as your skin? Protecting your eyes from the sun’s harmful rays is just as important as slathering on sunscreen to protect your skin.

A major reason why your eyes need sun protection is that ultraviolet rays (UV) from the sun can lead to numerous health problems affecting your eyes.  Cataracts, pterygium (a growth that could eventually block vision), and macular degeneration are some possible eye issues.

While few of us would ever stare looking at the sun for long periods of time, the sun’s rays still can reach your eyes in a variety of ways. Walking looking down at fresh snow can damage your eyes as snow can reflect up to 80% of harmful UV rays. Sea foam reflects about 25% UV radiation and dry sand about 15%. Even grass, soil, and water reflect UV rays. 

Did you spend a lot of time outdoors as a kid? Then you probably have already been exposed to 80% of your lifetime exposure to UV rays before the age of 18. While spending more time outdoors for longer periods of time as a kid is one reason for a higher lifetime UV exposure but children also have larger pupils (which allow more light into the eyes) and clearer lenses than their parents.

Four tips preventing sun damage to your eyes

Clear, unobstructed vision is a gift to be carefully preserved as you age. Start today by adopting the following five habits for protecting your eyes and vision from sun damage:

1.     Always wear sunglasses year round (even on cloudy days) and choose sunglasses that block UV rays. The National Eye Institute recommends choosing sunglasses that block out 99 to 100 percent of both UVA and UVB radiation. If you wear regular prescription glasses of any sort, make sure that the lenses are rated to block both UVA and UVB rays. Choose styles with large lenses to block as much light as possible.  Wraparound styles with a close fit help prevent light from entering on the sides.

2.     The time of day when UV radiation is the strongest for eyes and skin is in the morning and again mid-afternoon. Sun exposure to the eyes tends to be more continual in fall, winter, and spring when the sun lower in the sky.  

3.     Wear a broad-brimmed hat for additional eye protection. The American Cancer Society recommends a hat with a two-inch or wider brim that wraps all the way around the hat. A dark, nonreflective underside to the brim can also help reduce UV rays reflecting up onto your face from water, snow, and other reflective surfaces.

4.     If you wear contacts, talk with your eye doctor about the best UV-blocking contact lens options.  Contacts that protect against UV rays are classified into 2 categories: Class I and Class II. Class I UV-blockers provide the greatest measure of UV protection.


Dr. David B. Samadi is a Urologic Oncology Expert and Robotic Surgeon located at 485 Madison Avenue on the 21st floor, New York, NY – 212-365-5000.  Follow Dr. Samadi at, and