UV Rays and Your Eyes

Your skin isn’t the only thing that can be damaged by UV radiation. It can really do a number on your eyes, too.

Long-term effects of UV exposure include corneal damage, cataracts and macular degeneration.

Ultraviolet Keratitis

Ultraviolet keratitis, also known as photokeratitis, is a painful eye condition caused by excessive UV exposure. It is basically a sunburn of the corneas.

Many of you have experience a form of photokeratitis, snow blindness.

Possible symptoms of ultraviolet keratitis are:

  • Red, painful eyes
  • Blurry vision
  • Gritty sensation
  • Light sensitivity


Protecting your eyes from UV rays isn’t much different from protecting your skin. You must use multiple forms of sun protection to be fully covered.


The most obvious eye protection are sunglasses. Not all sunglasses are created alike. Some don’t do a good enough job of blocking UV light.

The American Optometric Association recommends sunglasses that:

  • Block out 99 to 100% of both UVA and UVB radiation
  • Screen out 75 to 90% of visible light
  • Have lenses that are perfectly matched in color and free of distortions and imperfections
  • Have lenses that are gray for proper color recognition

Wide-Brimmed Hat

Sunglasses don’t provide complete protection. Light from the top and sides isn’t blocked.

This is where a sun hat comes in. A wide-brimmed style is preferable.


If you wear contact lenses, look into ones that block UV rays. They shouldn’t replace sunglasses, but rather offer another layer of protection.

When getting ready for time in the sun, it is important to consider your whole body. Neglecting any one part can have lasting negative effects.