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This post was most recently updated on June 2nd, 2020
Whenever we go outside, most people understand that it is important to put on sunblock to help protect your skin from the harmful UV rays of the sun, but what about our eyes?
We all know that the sun doesn’t have to be shining for harmful UV rays to be present, on a cloudy day there could be much more. Some of us at one point in our lives have gone outside on a partly cloudy day without proper skin protection and experienced one of the worse sunburns of our lives (guilty). UV rays can reflect off of many things outside and expose you to high levels of UV, on an overcast day the amount of UV you are exposed to dramatically increases.
UV Coating on Glasses
Those exact UV rays that are burning your skin could potentially cause many conditions that are not treatable, therefore protection from those harmful UV rays at every age is extremely important. People that do not wear prescription glasses should always wear sunglasses that have 100% UV protection.
UV protection is also available on prescription glasses as well. People who buy plastic or glass lenses will have to have the coating added on, while people who buy polycarbonate lenses will have UV protection built-in.
What Are UV Rays?
Ultraviolet light is a type of electromagnetic radiation that is radiated off of the sun and comes to us in various wavelengths. Wavelengths that are between 400 and 700 nm is visible, while UV is between 10 to 400 nm and is invisible to the naked eye.
There are 3 main types of UV ray:
- UV-A Rays – There are about 500 times more UV-A rays within sunlight than there are of UV-B rays. According to Prevent Blindness UV-A rays can hurt your central vision, it can damage the macula, as well as a part of the retina in the back of your eyes.
- UV-B Rays – Even though there are a lot less UV-B rays than there are of UV-A it is equally as important to protect yourself from UV-B rays. UV-B rays are the ones that cause your sunburn when you don’t put sunblock on to protect your skin. According to Prevent Blindness UV-B rays are absorbed by your cornea and the lens but these rays may cause even more damage to your eyes than UV-A rays would.
- UV-C Rays – These are the UV rays that carry the most energy, but luckily for us, these rays don’t come through our atmosphere and are not in sunlight.
Depending on what time of the day you are out during the day and a range of other factors determine the strength of the UV rays that are reaching you. How much damage your eyes would get from the sun at any given time depends on the strength of the UV and how long you are exposed to it. Remember damage from UV done to your eyes is done over a lifetime, so it’s important to make sure your eyes are protected at all times.
Also Read: 10 Best Aviator Sunglasses For Men 2020
When Are UV Rays The Strongest?
The strength of UV rays depends on a number of factors. According to the American Cancer Society, it is as follows:
- Time of the day – UV rays are at the peak of their strength between the times of 10 am and 4 pm.
- Season of the year – Not surprisingly during the spring and summer seasons the UV rays are the strongest. The seasons are less of a factor the closer you live to the equator.
- Distance from the equator – The further you are away from the equator the UV exposure varies more during the seasons.
- Altitude – If you in the mountains more UV rays are going to be hitting you.
- Cloud Cover – This is always a lottery, there are times when the clouds actually block some of the UV and you have less UV exposure on the ground, but there are other times when the clouds are scattered the UV rays have the chance of getting trapped causing UV to be stronger on the ground.
- Reflection off surfaces – Have you ever gone to the lake, or the beach and gotten extremely sunburn? Well, UV rays reflect off surfaces like water, snow, and buildings.
What Problems Could UV Rays Cause For Your Eyes?
Having a lifetime of exposure of UV rays to your eyes could lead to many eye conditions, many are not treatable. This is not something that happens overnight but a lifetime of UV exposure will accelerate the process. Let’s take a closer look at some conditions if you don’t protect your eyes from UV:
- Eyelid Cancer – Your eyelid is designed to protect your eyes but has very sensitive tissues that could potentially be damaged with exposure to UV rays. Leaving your eyelids exposed to UV rays could give you a higher risk of developing eyelid cancer.
- Cataracts – The crystalline lens in your eye filters out the UV but overtime exposure to UV causes the lens to turn yellow and cloudy. 10 percent of cataracts are directly linked to UV exposure.
- Macular Degeneration – Macular degeneration causes damage near the center of your retina where your field of vision is normally the sharpest. This is one of the major causes of loss of vision in the United States for people that are over 60 years old. It is thought that UV-A rays cause macular degeneration.
- Eye Cancer – Although they are rare eye cancers are a thing and being exposed to UV rays raises your risk factor for developing it.
So, How Should You Protect Your Eyes?
If you do not have a prescription for glasses, then make sure you are always wearing your 100% UV blocking sunglasses when you are outside. Especially if you are going to be outside for prolonged periods of time. Activities that are performed outdoors during the spring or summer months have higher risks of UV exposure. If you are going to be outside doing activities like going to the beach, hiking, fishing, anything where you will be outside for extended periods of time eye protection is a must.
People that have prescription glasses a majority of the time will have built-in protection. People who buy CR-39 plastic or glass lenses have the option of adding the UV protection coating.
Polycarbonate and Hi-index lenses have UV protection built-in and no coating is needed. Even though prescription glasses offer 100% UV protection if you are outside for extended periods of time a good pair of prescription sunglasses would be good to have.
For people who wear contact lenses, some contact lenses have UV blocking capabilities which is great but the contact lens does not cover your entire eye. Therefore a quality pair of sunglasses that blocks 100% of UV light is recommended.
Always make sure the sunglasses that you are wearing are 100% UV protected. If can be very dangerous to wear glasses that have dark tinted lenses that do not have UV protection due to your pupil’s widening when it is darker to take in more light. If you have no UV protection on your glasses that are dark, your pupils will widen and take in more unfiltered UV potentially causing more damage to your eyes.
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Your eyes should always be protected by glasses when they are being exposed to UV rays. It doesn’t matter that the sun isn’t shining, if it is daytime chances there are UV rays all around you. If you are ever in doubt about how strong the UV is in your area you could always check the UV Index provided by the EPA to help you be aware of how strong the UV is outside in your area.
So if you’re going outside think about your eyes, and put on those sunglasses.
Do you wear sunglasses? How often? Let me know below! As always thank you for reading and if you have any comments, questions or concerns leave them below and I will get back to you.
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