Long-term exposure to UV radiation can cause damage to different parts of the eye. Scientific studies and research have shown that exposure to small amounts of UV radiation over a period of many years increases the chance of developing a cataract and may cause damage to the retina, a nerve-rich lining of the eye that is used for seeing. Additionally, chronic exposure to shorter wavelength visible light (i.e. blue and violet light) may also be harmful to the retina.
The longer the eyes are exposed to solar radiation, the greater the risk of developing later in life such conditions as cataracts or macular degeneration. Since it is not clear how much exposure to solar radiation will cause damage, the AOA recommends wearing quality sunglasses that offer UV protection and wearing a hat or cap with a wide brim whenever you spend time outdoors. Also, certain contact lenses can provide additional UV protection.
To provide adequate protection for your eyes, sunglasses should:
- block out 99 to 100 percent of both UV-A and UV-B radiation;
- screen out 75 to 90 percent of visible light;
- be perfectly matched in color and free of distortion and imperfection; and
- have lenses that are gray for proper color recognition.