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5 Tips to Shield Your Eyes from the Summer Sun

May 29, 2012
With Memorial Day behind us, summer is nearly in full swing. While summertime brings plenty of opportunities for outdoor activities, it also introduces risks – such as sun damage to your eyes. Experts from the New York-Presbyterian Hospital offer five tips to help shield your eyes from the summer sun.

Sun damage can cause severe damage to the eye. According to medical experts, this damage includes conditions such as sunburn to the cornea, tissue growth on the surface of eyes that can block vision and skin cancer of the eyelids. Sun damage may even contribute to the development of cataracts and other eye problems.

"There are strong indications that chronic exposure to the sun may accelerate aging of eye tissue. All protective eyewear should have a side shield protection or wraparound the eye so light cannot enter the eye from side reflections," said Dr. Christopher Starr, director of refractive surgery at New York-Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center.

Starr, along with Dr. George Cioffi, chief of ophthalmology at New York-Presbyterian Hospital/Columbia University Medical Center, offers the following tips to help you choose the best sun protection for your eyes during the summer and all year round:

  1. Check your sunglasses' UV protection level. UV and sunglass protection is recommended year-round, and they should also be used during daylight hours. Even on cloudy days, the UV index can be dangerously high. Your sunglasses should provide more than 95 percent UV protection and ideally 100 percent (sometimes labeled as UV400 on the glasses). 
  2. Check the lens tint on your shades. Most people believe that darker sunglasses provide better protection against the sun, but that is not true. The lens tint should block 80 percent of transmissible light but no more than 90 percent to 92 percent of light; neutral gray, amber, brown or green are good colors to choose from.
  3. Ensure that your sunglasses block all of the light. Choose sunglasses that wrap all the way around the temples, and/or wear a hat with at least a three-inch brim that can block the sunlight from overhead. 
  4. Wear sunglasses over your contact lenses. People who wear contact lenses that offer UV protection should still wear sunglasses. Sunglasses are helpful for preventing the drying effect most contact lens wearers get, which is caused by wind. 
  5. Kids need sunglasses, too. Children's eyes are not able to block UV rays as well as adults' eyes can. For the best protection, consider UV-protected sunglasses for your children, and remember that small infants should always be shaded from direct exposure to the sun.

"Although everyone should protect their eyes from overexposure to harmful UV rays, there are some groups that are at higher risk," explained Dr. George Cioffi, chief of ophthalmology at New York-Presbyterian Hospital/Columbia University Medical Center. "People with retinal disorders, with light-colored eyes, cataract surgery patients and those taking medications that increase eye sensitivity to light should take extra steps to protect their eyes from the sun in the summer and all year-round."

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