What you need to know about UV-rays and your eyes

What you need to know about UV-rays and your eyes

Summer has arrived and as we step out into the glorious sunshine we reach for our shades, but without the right UV-protection those sunglasses could be doing us more harm than good.  Not all tinted sunglasses have the recommended amount of UV- protection.   In fact, UV-protection is a clear film that can be used on contacts, glasses, and sunglasses and it has no connection to the degree of tinting on the lenses.  Our pupils naturally constrict to block out some of the UV-rays on their own, but when we wear sunglasses without UV-protection our pupils remain open, allowing dangerous UV-rays to enter our eyes.  This is especially important to remember with regards to children.  Not only do children spend more time outside, but their eyes are more transparent than adults and so more susceptible to harmful UV-ray.

Damage from UV-rays is cumulative and its effects range from temporary discomfort to permanent damage.  Have you ever left the beach thinking you had sand in your eye?  You may have, but you may also have received a corneal sunburn, also known as photokeratitis.  Photokeratitis, while typically temporary, is very painful and evidenced by red, watery, light sensitive eyes that feel as though a foreign object is present.  Prolonged UV exposure can lead to premature aging of the eyes and increases the chances of developing cataracts, pterygium1, and eye cancer.  Long term exposure to UV-rays can also damage the retina, which can lead to the number one cause of blindness in American adults, macular degeneration.

Summer is the season in which we are most aware of the sun and the presence of UV-rays, but it is important to protect our eyes throughout the year.   The American Optometric Association suggests wearing UV-A and UV-B protected lenses2, sunscreen around the eyes, and a wide brimmed hat to protect from the full range of direct and reflected UV-rays3.

McMillin eyecare takes our patients’ eye health very seriously and that is why all our glasses, sunglasses, and even a selection of our contact lenses have the recommended amount of UV-protection.  You can be sure you are making a stylish and safe choice for you and your family when you purchase your eye products from McMillin eyecare!


  1. Pterygium is an abnormal growth of the covering of the white of the eye onto the cornea.  Dr. Cham and Dr. Billy see this condition regularly when on medical mission to Belize and the Amazon river.
  2. The AOA recommends wearing eye protection that blocks out 95% of UV-A and 99% of UV-B.
  3. UV-rays do not only hit the eyes directly but can reflect off the ground, water, snow, sand, and many other reflective surfaces.

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