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Not only does overexposure to the sun have the potential to wreak havoc on your skin, but it can also damage your eyes. Chronic sun exposure can accelerate aging of eye tissue and can contribute to cataracts, macular degeneration and growths on the eye. Some people are at an even higher risk from overexposure to UV rays. For example, those with retinal disorders or light-colored eyes and cataract surgery patients should take extra steps to protect their eyes from the sun all year round.

But how can we protect our eyes from these risks? The most important thing to do is to wear sunglasses. Here are five tips to help you choose the best sun protection for your eyes during the summer and all year-round:

  • Check the UV protection level. UV and sunglass protection is recommended year-round, especially during daylight hours. Even on cloudy days the UV index can be dangerously high. Your sunglasses should provide more than 95 percent UV protection and ideally 100 percent (sometimes labeled as UV400 on the glasses).
  • Check the lens tint. Most people believe that darker sunglasses provide better protection against the sun, but that is not true. The lens tint should block about 80 percent of transmissible light; neutral gray, amber, brown or green are good colors to choose from.
  • Block the light from all angles. Choose sunglasses that wrap all the way around the temples, and/or wear a hat with at least a three-inch brim that can block the sunlight from overhead.
  • Wear shades over your contact lenses. People who wear contact lenses that offer UV protection should still wear sunglasses. Sunglasses help prevent the drying effect that most contact lens wearers experience, which is caused by wind.
  • Buy shades for your children. Children’s eyes are not able to block UV rays as well as adults’ eyes. For the best protection, consider UV-protected sunglasses for your children, and remember that small infants should always be shaded from direct exposure to the sun.

The American Academy of Ophthalmology’s “Eye Smart” website provides additional helpful tips.

Dr. Sun Headshot

Grace Sun
M.D. Ophthalmologist, NewYork-Presbyterian/Lower Manhattan Hospital