What you should know about the sun and your eyes

At this time of year it’s essential to protect your skin against the harmful effects of the sun’s rays. But how much thought do you put into protecting your eyes?

UV radiation is well known to cause sunburn and can lead to skin cancer. But the same UV wavelengths also have an impact on your vision. And on June 27 each year, we’re reminded of that fact by National Sunglasses Day.

A full day outside without protection can cause immediate, temporary issues such as swollen or red eyes and hypersensitivity to light, says The Vision Council, organiser of National Sunglasses Day. Years of UV exposure may even cause more serious problems such as cancer of the eye or eyelid, and accelerate conditions such as cataracts and age-related macular degeneration (AMD).

Here, courtesy of The Vision Council, are five things you should know about UV eye protection:

  1. Despite the health risks of UV exposure, not all sunglasses have UV protection. Since UV protection is crucial to shielding eyes from damaging radiation, it is important to look for a label, sticker or tag indicating UV protection before purchasing a pair of sunglasses.
  2. UV protection has nothing to do with the darkness or colour of a lens. Wearing sunglasses with dark lenses without adequate UV protection can actually be worse than wearing no sunglasses at all because they make your pupils dilate, which then increases retinal exposure to the unfiltered UV.
  3. Children receive three times the annual sun exposure of adults, increasing their susceptibility to UV eye damage. And, unlike the mature ocular lens of an adult eye, a child’s immature lens cannot filter out UV as easily.
  4. UV rays are just as dangerous on cloudy days as they are on clear days. Just like skin, eyes can accumulate harmful UV radiation on overcast days, so be sure to wear proper eye and skin protection while outside.
  5. Similar to cloudy days, cold days also carry UV risk. The sun is present year-round, which means UV rays are a constant regardless of weather. UV rays can’t be seen, but their long-term effects are extremely damaging to the eyes.

Whether you’re buying sunglasses for adults or children, look for a pair with the British Standards kitemark or CE mark. According to the NHS this means they offer a safe level of protection against harmful UV light.

Find out the level of UV light where you are in the UK by checking the Met Office’s online UV index forecast. And if you’re travelling abroad, the Sunburn Map website can also give you the UV level of many locations around the world.

Make sure you’re using the right level of sun protection for your skin too. Speak to your local Careway pharmacist to find products that suit your skin type. Find your nearest Careway pharmacy by using our Pharmacy Finder.