Beyond Cool: Which Sunglasses Protect Your Eyes from UV Rays?
By Holly Daniels Nelson
Jun 27, 2018
Updated Oct 25, 2023
5 min read
Admit it: You like to wear sunglasses because they make you look cool. But an even cooler benefit is that if you buy the right kind of sunglasses, they’ll protect your eyes from exposure to the sun’s harmful UV (ultra-violet) rays, which can lead to vision problems, some of them quite severe.
The sun’s UV rays can damage the cornea, lens, and other parts of the eye and over the years can cause cataracts, cancer of the eye, or skin cancer around the eye or on the eyelids,” according to Intermountain Riverton Hospital optometrist Jefferson Langford, OD. “They can also cause an abnormal pink tissue on the white of the eye called pterygium.”
Sunglasses recommended by the American Optometric Association have:
Prices for lenses that meet those standards can vary a lot. Some are relatively cheap and others can be expensive, so it pays to shop around. Be sure to replace your sunglasses if the lenses get scratched or warped.
Polarized lenses reduce reflected glare when sunlight bounces off snow or water. They’re great for skiing, snowboarding, water sports, fishing, or driving. Check with your eye doctor for lens color and shade recommendations.
“Children’s eyes are more transparent than adult eyes, which makes it easier for UV rays to reach a child’s retina. Children and teens are typically out in the sun more than adults, which makes them more susceptible to UV damage,” says Dr. Langford.
Protecting your eyes from UV rays while driving may help prevent cataracts. Side windows in cars often aren’t as shaded as the windshield, and a recent study found that UV exposure from driver-side windows may lead to a higher incidence of eye disease.
“If your eyes are exposed to excessive amounts of UV radiation over a short period of time, you’ll likely experience photo-keratitis or ‘sunburn of the eye,’” says Dr. Langford. “It can be painful.”
Symptoms of sunburned eyes:
Fortunately, these symptoms are usually temporary and rarely cause permanent damage to the eyes. See an eye doctor if you have these symptoms.
If you’re experiencing symptoms from any of the eye problems listed here, it may be a good idea to see an eye doctor. As for regular examinations, if you wear glasses or contacts, get an eye exam every two years if you’re younger than 60, or every year if you’re over 60.