Watch CBS News

Eyes Need Protection From Sun, Too

Most of us use sunscreen to protect our skin, but our eyes also have it -- that is -- the need to be safeguarded from the potentially harmful effects of exposure to the sun.

The same ultraviolet rays that cause skin cancer can also damage our eyes, Early Show medical correspondent Dr. Emily Senay explained Friday.

UV rays can damage the retina, which increases the risk of macular degeneration, the leading cause of blindness among older Americans. UV radiation can also damage the eye lens and cause cataracts and, in extreme cases, cancer of the eye.

And, just like skin exposure to the sun, the effects of UV radiation on the eyes are cumulative, so too much sun over a lifetime can cause permanent damage.

To avoid sun damage to our eyes, first and foremost, we need good sunglasses -- and we can't forget to wear them, Senay stresses. Good sunglasses are the ones that protect your eyes from ultraviolet rays. The American Academy of Ophthalmology recommends buying sunglasses that have a tag certifying they block 99 to 100 percent of UV light. Some manufacturers' labels say "UV absorption up to 400 nanometers." That's the same as saying 100 percent UV absorption -- the best. Avoid glasses that claim the lenses block UV, but don't say how much protection they offer.

As for the lens type -- the color and degree of darkness doesn't tell you anything about the lenses' ability to block UV light. However, some doctors recommend a gray tint, because it reduces light intensity without altering the color of objects, providing the most natural color vision.

One last tip: You may want to consider wraparound glasses shaped to keep light from shining in around the frames and into your eyes.

Senay added that, just as people with lighter skin burn more easily, some people have to be extra cautious with their eyes in the sun. In general, she says, people with lighter skin and, especially, those with blue eyes are very sensitive to ultraviolet light. Damage to their eyes can be faster and more severe.

Also, people who've had laser surgery to correct their eyesight should always wear protective sunglasses. Too much UV light could undo the vision correction, and you might have to go back to wearing glasses again. Odds are they wouldn't want to risk that!

In addition, Senay points out, parents need to -- keep an eye on children. They're particularly susceptible to sun-related eye damage, because they typically spend more time outdoors than adults, and the lenses of their eyes are more transparent, meaning more harmful light can reach the retina.

Remember, sun damage to the eyes adds up over a lifetime, so you want to start early to avoid any problems later, and get them used to wearing sunglasses.

For much more on this, from the American Academy of Ophthalmology, including a sunglasses buying guide, click here.
View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.