Sun Damage and Your Eyes

August 10th, 2016
african american man playing violin outside wearing sunglasses

During the summer we’re constantly reminded to practice good skin protection and encouraged to wear sun screen whenever we’re outside. With the sun higher in the sky and up for longer, we’re more exposed to potentially harmful UV rays.

While people take steps to protect against sunburns, they too often leave their eyes unprotected and exposed to the sun’s damaging rays. Just as the sun can damage your skin, your eyes are equally as vulnerable. Forgetting your sunglasses is more than just an inconvenience.

Why Protect Your Eyes

Sunglasses and hats aren’t only to keep the sun out of your eyes for comfort, they also protect your eyes against muscle strain and potential sun damage. Just as the sun can cause cancer and other damage to your skin, sun exposure can cause damage to your eyes.

Eye issues caused by sun damage include:

  • Cataracts
  • Macular degeneration
  • Corneal sunburns
  • Pterygium (a growth on the eye)
  • Several types of eye cancer

While many of these diseases can occur without sun damage, extensive exposure to the sun can increase the likelihood of developing these issues.

When to Protect Your Eyes

You should consider wearing eye protection any time it’s not totally dark outside. Even on cloudy days the sun’s rays break through the atmosphere. Just as it’s important to wear sunblock even on overcast days, it’s important to wear eye protection whenever you’re outside during the day.

It’s particularly important to wear UV-filtering sunglasses and a hat whenever you’re near something reflective. Whether you’re at the pool, lake, river, ocean or even on bright snow during the winter, these elements reflect the light, making it even brighter and more harsh on your eyes. If you’ve ever tried to read a book outside, you know how bright those white pages are. Anything that’s a bright color reflects the sun and puts more strain on your eyes — so remember your sun glasses.

Protective eyewear is also more important based on your geographic location. While everyone should be diligent about wearing sunglasses, people who live closer to the equator or at a higher altitude are exposed to more intense sun rays.

How to Protect Your Eyes

Your two biggest allies in protecting your eyes from sun damage are sunglasses and hats. While it can sometimes be a hassle to put on sunblock, whipping on a pair of glasses or a hat is quick and simple. Consider your sunglasses an indispensable accessory that you don’t leave the house without. To make sure you always have protection close at hand, keep a spare pair at the office, in the car and in your bag.

When purchasing sunglasses, opt for pairs that block 99-100% of UV rays. UVA and UVB rays are both bad for your eyes and sunglasses won’t truly protect your eyes from damage unless they’re designed to block these rays. Buy sunglasses that are large enough to cover your entire eye and have bulkier frames and arms that help block rays from entering around the edges of the glasses.

If you wear corrective lenses, invest in a pair of prescription sunglasses or transition lens glasses that get darker when you’re in brighter environments. You can also ask your eye doctor about UV blocking contact lenses.

If you’re going to be outside for an extended period of time, you should also wear a hat. A broad-brimmed hat like a baseball cap or floppy beach hat will keep your face shaded and the sun from entering the top of your glasses. Brimmed hats are extra important when you’re around water or light-colored cement that will reflect the rays and make them more intense.

Simple precautions like sunglasses and hats are cheap, easy fixes to a potential major health problem. Just as you make putting on sunblock a part of your sun protection routine, get into the habit of always wearing sunglasses to protect your eyes from sun damage as well.

About ICON Eyecare

ICON Eyecare is a leading surgical and medical eye care provider based out of Denver, CO. Since 1999, ICON has been building a Center of Ophthalmology Excellence empowered by an expert team of board certified physician specialists, the most advanced laser technology and a culture of quality and extraordinary patient care. In coordination with referring optometrists and physicians, ICON Eyecare specializes in treating patients with cataracts, advanced forms of glaucoma and other age and disease related conditions, while providing innovative options for patients seeking LASIK and cosmetic eye procedures. With 14 patient care centers located in Colorado and Texas, ICON Eyecare is expanding within the broader western U.S. region. For more information, please call (720) 524-1001, or visit

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