A number of scientific studies indicate that spending long hours in the sun without eye protection can damage your eyes by contributing to cataracts and growths on the eye, including cancer. Based on these studies, ophthalmologists (Eye M.D.s) recommend that you wear 99 percent and higher UV (ultraviolet radiation)-absorbent sunglasses and a brimmed hat whenever you're in the sun for long periods of time.

Proper sunglasses are key to protecting your eyes from sun-related damage, and they should be worn anytime you are outdoors, particularly under these circumstances:

  • During the summer, when the level of ultraviolet radiation (UVA and UVB) is at least three time higher than during the winter;
  • When at the beach or in the water;
  • When participating in winter sports, especially at high altitudes;
  • When using medications that can cause sensitivity to light (photosensitivity).

The best sunglasses offer 100 percent UV absorption, are of the best optical quality and are impact resistant.

Man wearing sunglasses.

If you wear contact lenses, they may not protect your eyes from UV light. There are contact lenses available with UV protection. If you do not have contact lenses that absorb UV light, you need to protect your eyes with sunglasses.

See Also: Tips for Choosing the Right Sunglasses

Will sunglasses always protect your eyes?
Sunglasses cannot protect your eyes from certain intense light sources. Arc welding, tanning beds/lights, snowfields, or gazing directly at the sun, especially during a solar eclipse, for example, can severely damage your eyes. Looking at any of these light sources without adequate protection can cause a painful corneal condition called photokeratitis or even damage to the retina, causing a permanent loss of central vision. Your ophthalmologist can recommend the appropriate measures to take to protect your eyes in special situations.

Next Page: People at Risk for UV Eye Damage

Updated by David Turbert on Apr. 21, 2014

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