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UV Safety: Protecting Your Vision from the Sun

By Steven Rhee, D.O.
Cornea Specialist at
Hawaiian Eye Center 

Hawaii is blessed with year-round beach weather, which is one of the many reasons most of us are happy to call this place home. However, the more time you spend outside in the sun, the more you’re exposed to ultraviolet (UV) light. UV light isn’t just damaging to the skin, but it’s also damaging to the eyes.

Exposure to the sun is hazardous anytime during daylight hours even when it’s cloudy. UV radiation is especially severe from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and can burn the surface of the eyes directly or indirectly from reflections off sand, water and pavement.

UV damage to the eyes often goes unnoticed but accumulates over time. Exposure to UV light can lead to cataracts, macular degeneration, skin cancer around the eyes, and pterygium—an unsightly, noncancerous growth on the eye’s surface.

Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is the leading cause of severe vision loss for those 50 years of age and older, with an estimated 11 million Americans affected by the disease. In addition, over 24 million Americans 40 and over suffer from cataracts.

The best way to prevent eye damage from the sun is by wearing sunglasses. No matter the style or cost, choose sunglasses labeled “100% protection” or “UV 400.” Wrap-around sunglasses that extend around the temples and a hat add further protection from indirect sunlight.

Eye care professionals recommend that everyone of every age wear sunglasses whenever spending anytime outside.