You likely know wearing sunglasses is important for protecting your eyes from the sun. Because just like your skin, your eyes can be damaged by long-term exposure to UV rays. But just how important is it to wear UV-blocking sunglasses year-round? Find out how these harmful rays can affect your vision below.

How Do UV Rays Affect the Eyes?

Radiation from both natural sunlight and artificial rays (such as those from tanning beds) can affect both the surface tissue of your eyes including the eyelids, conjunctiva, and cornea, as well as deeper components including the lens and retina.

Prolonged exposure to these harmful rays puts you at risk for eye issues including eyelid skin cancers, scarring of the cornea and conjunctiva, cataracts, and possibly macular degeneration.

Although rare, photokeratitis can also occur after unprotected exposure to UV rays. It may result in blurred vision, watery eyes, and sensitivity to light. The issue happens when cells in the cornea become damaged, leading to discomfort that can range from mild irritation to severe pain. Photokeratitis is also sometimes referred to as arc eye, as it can occur after performing arc welding. Another version is snow blindness, which can be caused by the sun’s light reflecting off snow or water.

Finally, the risk of age-related macular degeneration, a leading cause of blindness, appears to be higher in people who undergo prolonged exposure to UV rays without eye protection. This condition occurs when the macula — or area of the eye that controls sharp, central vision — breaks down.

How Can I Protect My Eyes Against UV Damage?

Fortunately, protecting your eyes against UV light is simple. One easy way to avoid damage is to stay out of the sun during the brightest hours of the day, which are usually between 10 am and 2 pm. When you do go outdoors, keep your eyes protected with UV-blocking sunglasses and a hat. 

Sunglasses are required to have the level of UV protection printed on them, so look for lenses with 99 to 100 percent protection against UVA and UVB radiation. In addition, seek ample coverage for your eyes and the surrounding area. Finally, you might consider having different pairs for specific purposes. For example, there are sleek, sporty styles available for athletes, as well as trendy shades for everyday wear.

No matter which type of sunglasses you prefer, you can find the right pair at Eye Consultants of Atlanta. We stock a wide range of designer frames and can ensure your prescription is up-to-date so you can see clearly while looking great. Explore the list of brands available at our optical shop or call 404-351-2220 to schedule an appointment.