If the most important word in real estate is “location,” the most important word in preventing damage to your eyes from sunlight is “protection.” The evidence for UV injury causing skin cancer is irrefutable and I have yet to meet an elderly individual who wishes they spent more time sunbathing during their youth.  During fellowship training, I had the opportunity to join Dan B. Jones, MD in his care and screening of the Houston Astros professional baseball team and was shocked to find teenagers from the Dominican Republic with pterygia as it was common for youngsters to play baseball in the middle of the day without any UV protection.  The evidence is mounting that UV injury from unprotected sun exposure causes pterygium, basal cell carcinoma, cataracts, and likely contributes to macular degeneration. These conditions are seen and treated at the Duke Eye Center with increasing frequency and our message to patients is to protect their skin and their eyes from ultraviolet radiation injury.

The following article is a great review of these concerns.

Use sunglasses that block 100 percent of UV-A and UV-B rays. By protecting your eyes from the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays with sunglasses, you can reduce risks for some minor or serious eye problems. UV damage adds up over time, so the sooner you begin protecting your eyes, the better, even if you’re in your teens or early adult years. Doing so may reduce risks for pterygium (a benign growth), cataract, age-related macular degeneration and uveal cancer (similar to skin cancer). Also make sure children and older family members are protected.

Keep these additional tips in mind, especially during summer or during water or snow sports, since these conditions intensify light reflection into the eyes. Light is also more intense at higher altitudes.

  • Wear a hat with a broad brim, in addition to sunglasses.
  • Don’t be fooled by clouds: The sun’s rays can pass through haze and thin clouds. Sun damage to eyes can occur anytime during the year, not just in the summertime.
  • Take special care at peak sun times: It’s especially important to wear sunglasses between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m., when the sun’s UV rays are the strongest.

Skiing and UV Safety

Men on a bench wearing sunglasses

A 2010 study of skiers’ UV safety showed that most people did not consistently protect themselves from the sun. Late winter and early spring were the periods when skiers are exposed to the highest levels of UV rays, and of the resorts studied in western North America, Mammoth Mountain in California had the highest UV rating.

Indoor Tanning and UV Safety

woman-in-tanning-bed

Doctors warn that indoor tanning can cause damage to your eyes just like the sun. Avoid the dangers of indoor tanning.