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The Sun's Effect on Your Eyes—and Tips for How to Protect Them

hat-sunglassesby Peter Michalos, M.D.

A convincing body of evidence suggests ultraviolet radiation is harmful to the human eye. Even children on the beach should be encouraged to wear UV-absorbing glasses. I'm the father of 7-year-old triplets, and we go through three pairs of sunglasses every summer.

Conditions including the following have been associated with cumulative UV-radiation exposure:

  • cataracts (cloudy lens)
  • macular degeneration (central vision loss)
  • pinguecula and pterygium (abnormal growths on the surface of the eye)
  • lid tumors
The sun is the major source of this UV exposure, but welding, lasers and tanning salons can also cause UV damage and corneal burns. (The cornea is the clear window in front of the eye.) UV radiation is not visible to the human eyes and reaches them even on cloudy days. newsletter-graphic


To protect your eyes from the sun:

  • Wear a hat with a wide brim (even children).
  • Buy sunglasses that block 99 percent of UVA and UVB and that are preferably wraparound and close fitting.
  • If you're using the sunglasses for sports, buy polycarbonate plastic, which is shatter resistant.


PETER MICHALOS, M.D.,
is a board-certified ophthalmologist with New York-Presbyterian/Columbia hospital.

Last updated and/or approved: April 2010. Original article appeared in the summer 2004 former print magazine. Bio current as of summer 2004. This article is not meant as individual advice. Please see our disclaimer.


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