The Spectator

Protecting Your Eyes From UV

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What do you do to protect yourself from UV? Usually when the weather is nice we put on some sun cream and a hat before heading outside, but do you remember to protect your eyes?

UV protection for our eyes is something that often gets neglected and overlooked. The consequences of exposing your skin to UV radiation is well understood by the general population, however only 7% of people associate UV exposure with eye problems.

What is UV radiation?

Many people refer to ultraviolet radiation as ‘UV light’ however UV radiation is invisible as it is higher in energy and does not fall in the realm of visible light. There are 3 categories of UV radiation; UVC, UVB and UVA.

How Can UV radiation Affect The Eyes?


UVC are the highest energy UV rays and potentially the most harmful to your eyes and skin, fortunately the ozone layer blocks out virtually all UVC rays.


UVB rays stimulate the production of melanin, which causes the skin to darken creating a suntan. In higher doses UVB can cause sunburn increasing the risk of cancer, skin discolouration, wrinkles and other signs of premature ageing. Over exposure to UVB rays is also associated with a number of eye problems such as pterygium and photokeratitis –“snow blindness”. The cornea appears to absorb 100% of UVB rays which is unlikely to cause cataracts and macular degeneration.


UVA rays have lower energy than UVB and UVC, but can still pass through the cornea and reach the lens and retina, this type of radiation has been linked to the development of cataracts and may play a part in the development of macular degeneration.

Protecting The Eyes From UV

It is really important to protect your eyes and your children’s eyes from UV radiation. Some experts believe that half a person’s lifetime exposure to UV radiation can occur by age 18 due to spending more time outdoors. The best way to protect your eyes is by wearing good quality sunglasses, that block 100 percent of all UV rays. When choosing a pair of sunglasses, make sure they carry the CE mark, as this means that they meet the European Union standard and filter out harmful rays.

Another way to protect your eyes is by getting photochromic lenses with UV protection in your glasses. These are lenses that change colour when exposed to UV, meaning that no matter where you are, your eyes will be protected at all times, without the need for carrying two pairs of glasses. Photochromic lenses do not go as dark as sunglasses, and are not polarised so do not remove glare in the same way. Some eyewear ranges also come with a sun clip, meaning that you have that added UV protection in the form of a small clip that fits onto the glasses over the lenses.

Sunglasses are advised all year round, as UV is always present. If you are outdoors and it has snowed, the snow can reflect 80 percent of UV rays, almost doubling your overall exposure to solar UV radiation.


If you need anymore advice on UV protection for yourself or your children, or would like to purchase a pair of sunglasses, contact your local Eye Place today.