Much like our skin, the cells in our eyes can be easily damaged from the harmful effects of ultraviolet (UV) radiation. Exposure to UV radiation over time, whether from natural sunlight, blue light from screens, or even indoor lighting can damage the eye's surface layers and surrounding skin. It can also cause damage to your retina - the back surface of your eye, and your lens - a clear layer within your eyeball that helps to focus our vision.
The longer you’re exposed to UV rays, the more intense your symptoms are likely to be. You may find that you experience eye pain, twitching, swelling, redness, blurry vision, sensitivity to light, or watery eyes, among others.
Is UV Eye Damage Serious?
The good news about sun-damaged eyes is that they usually heal on their own without treatment, but in rare cases, repeated exposure over time can increase your risk of developing eye and eyelid cancers, corneal sunburn, cataracts, macular degeneration, and tissue growths on the surface of the eye.
How Can I Best Protect My Eyes From UV Damage?
Visit your optometrist to purchase professionally designed sunglasses that use breakthrough technology to block 99-100% of harmful UV rays. Wrap-around sunglasses or those with side panels are most effective, and your optometrist can create custom sunglasses that fill your vision prescription, no matter your age
Use proper eye protective equipment if you are exposed to UV radiation during your job, such as welders or those who work near water, snow or roads, including blue-light absorbing lenses for screen use
If you wear contact lenses and work or play in a sunny environment, ask your optometrist about UV-absorbing contacts
Try to keep out of direct sunlight between 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., when the sun’s rays are strongest
Wear a wide-brimmed hat or visor when you go outdoors
Protect your child’s eyes from a young age. It’s estimated that 50% of lifetime exposure to UV happens before the age of 18 years. So keep children younger than six months out of direct sunlight, encourage children to wear sunglasses and hats, and consider using a canopy or umbrella when at the beach or in the garden
Wear protective eyewear even if it’s cloudy or overcast, as glare from the snow, sand or water can still cause burns to the eyes at this time
See your optometrist at least once a year for a comprehensive eye exam to monitor your eye health, maintain clear vision and keep up-to-date on the latest in UV protection
When Should I Visit My Optometrist?
Alongside your yearly eye exam, we recommend making an appointment with your optometrist to order your own pair of UV-blocking or blue light sunglasses. We have a wide range of protective eyewear and contact lenses available for both adults and children, and can custom-build these to meet your prescription needs, with additional features such as polarising lenses or lenses that darken in bright light.
If you’re experiencing symptoms of sunburned eyes that are worsening, or don’t go away within a few days, or if you’ve noticed any other concerns with your eyes or vision, then book an appointment with one of our friendly optometrists who can carry out a comprehensive eye exam, rule out any underlying conditions, and provide you with the appropriate treatment.
To purchase your own UV-blocking eyewear or to book an appointment for a comprehensive eye exam contact your local store here.