It is well known that exposure to UV radiation can cause skin damage but few are aware that the eye is also at risk.  UV may have some benefits when absorbed by the skin but will only cause damage to the eyes and can lead to the development of cataracts and macula degeneration. UVB is filtered by the cornea and does not reach the eye lens or retina but UVA is absorbed by the lens and some may reach the retina. It is important to know that the threat is not only high from direct sunlight but can also be a problem when reflected from surfaces and even on an overcast day where the clouds are high. The risk of damage can be substantially reduced by wearing close fitting sunglasses and a wide brimmed hat.

Children tend to spend more time outdoors and have a greater exposure to reflected surfaces such as pavements and sand, yet this age group is less likely to wear eye protection. They also have larger pupils and the young eye lens is clearer allowing more UV light into the eye. Studies have shown that a person gets a huge chunk of their lifetime UV dose by the age of 18. Sunhats are a must for this age group and sunglasses should be worn in bright sunshine. It is not advisable for children to wear sunglasses all of the time as this will cause the pupils to remain unnaturally dilated for too long. A medium tint is generally recommended because a light tint won’t offer sufficient glare reduction and a dark tint will encourage excessive pupil expansion.

It is important to be aware that a tint alone will not give a full UV block and will in fact cause the pupil to dilate allowing more harmful rays into the eye. The essential thing to look for when buying any sunglasses is either a CE mark, which is the European standard of UV protection, or a UV 400 label, both of which indicate that the damaging UVA radiation will be prevented.