Summertime is when we all reach for sunscreen because we know it's good to protect our skin against the sun's rays, especially with skin cancer being the most common form of cancer in the US according to the EPA. But did you know that all year round, UV rays are also penetrating your eyes and causing cell damage? 10% of skin cancers are found on the eyelid, while some of the more common sun-related vision problems include cataracts, macular degeneration, and corneal growths. So, what can we do to combat this daily damage to our eyes? It's a pretty cool solution: Sunglasses.
UV protection for your eyes is so vital, the American Academy of Ophthalmology has designated July as "UV Safety Awareness Month"
The World Health Organization has classified ultraviolet radiation from the sun as a human carcinogen, meaning it is a cause of cancer. UV radiation is made up of three types of rays: Ultraviolet A (UVA), Ultraviolet B (UVB), and Ultraviolet C (UVC). Here's an optometrist's snapshot of how each type of ultraviolet rays affects our eyes:
- UVA Rays have the lowest energy of the ultraviolet rays and are closest to visible light. They can pass through the cornea and reach the lens and retina inside the eye. Overexposure to UVA radiation has been linked to the development of cataracts and may play a role in the development of macular degeneration.
- UVB Rays are somewhat filtered by the ozone layer, but some still reach the earth's surface. UVB rays are thought to lead to growths on the eye's surfaces called pingueculae and pterygium, and a painful inflammation of the cornea called photokeratitis– commonly called "snow blindness," it's essentially a sunburn of the cornea which causes temporary vision loss usually lasting 24-48 hours.
UVC Rays have the highest-energy UV rays and potentially most harmful; fortunately, the atmosphere's ozone layer blocks virtually all UVC rays. The concerns of UVC rays on eye and skin health aren't high– unless you used to frequent tanning beds, or the ozone layer is further depleted.
Bottom line: UV rays are harmful to your eyes
In 2017 we launched our new line of MagLock™ Sunglasses on June 27th– National Sunglasses Day, an annual event by The Vision Council to promote sunglasses use.
"How often do you wear your sunglasses outside? Bottom line: Everyone should wear them, even when skies are gray. UV rays can infiltrate the eye no matter how many clouds are hanging around, and it’s best to get in the habit of wearing them all the time. Remember, preparation today can help sustain healthy vision for the future! #NationalSunglassesDay
The most important considerations when making eyewear purchases are UV protection, fit and comfort. Sunglasses that aren't comfortable or don't look good won't be worn. And without wearing them, shades aren't effective." –The Vision Council
The best pair of sunglasses are the ones you have with you – but unfortunately, sunnies are notoriously hard to keep track of. That’s why MagLock Sunglasses are designed to be the most comfortable sunglasses to wear and the most difficult to lose, with hidden magnets that instantly mount to your fridge and other magnetic surfaces.
Sun's Out, Shades Out
According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, up to 80 percent of the sun’s UV rays can get through the clouds, so shade your skin and eyes as much as possible– even on overcast days. If you're forgetful, the hidden magnets of MagLock Sunglasses let you mount them on your fridge or Ferris ModStation so you're sure to grab your shades as you head out the door.
In fact, National Eye Institute encourages people of all ages to wear sunglasses that block UV radiation whenever you go outside during daylight hours, year round. Young eyes are especially susceptible, so if you know a young one, consider treating their peepers to a pair of Babiators.
And be warned that unmarked vintage or cheap sunglasses falsely claiming to protect against UV let even more of the harmful UV rays into your dilated pupils, potentially causing more damage than not wearing sunglasses at all. For this reason, insist on premium UV400 lenses which block 100% of UVA and UVB rays.
We spoke with Dr. Wes Shealy of Lowcountry Eyecare, who recommends polarization to anyone buying sunglasses to further reduce their UV exposure. This is particularly important for those who spend time out on the water or on the road, where light is being bounced back up into the eye. Anti-reflective coating on the back side of the lens allows light to pass through, cutting glare and easing eye strain.
More helpful tips for UV protection from the FDA:
- Choose sunglasses labeled with 100% UVA/UVB rating
- The darkness of the lens does not indicate its ability to shield your eyes from UV rays
- Be cautious when purchasing toy sunglasses, as they may not have UV protection
- Wear sunglasses even if you wear contact lenses that offer UV protection
- For complete UV protection, wear wide-brim hat and, of course, sunscreen
Sources:Environmental Protection Agency, "Health Effects of UV Radiation."
Skin Cancer Foundation "Skin Cancer Facts and Statistics." and "Guide to Sunscreens"
The Vision Council Resources and 2016 UV Report
All About Vision "Ultraviolet (UV) Radiation and your Eyes"
UPMC Hillman Cancer Center Infographic: "The Difference between UVA, UVB, and UVC Rays"
FDA "Tips to Stay Safe in the Sun: From Sunscreen to Sunglasses"