How to Protect Your Eyes from Sun Damage this Summer

Our eyes are our windows to the world and provide a crucial sense for our everyday lives. For all their beauty and importance, our eyes are often overlooked when we consider our health, including sun protection. Sun damage can affect forgotten areas like any other part of the body. Over time, sun damage to the eyes can cause serious conditions such as cataracts, eye lid cancers, corneal damage (e.g. pterygium),  and even permanent vision loss from macular degeneration. Here is our guide on the dangers  of UV damage and how to protect your eyes against harmful rays. 


The common misconception that sun damage can only occur after a few hours sunbathing on a sandy beach dismisses the UV rays that we are exposed to throughout the year. 

The sun can affect our eyes anytime, anywhere, however, some situations expose our eyes to particularly dangerous UV levels. Reflected sunlight on snow and water can be particularly damaging, while artificial light from sunbeds is also especially dangerous - it is now illegal for people under the age of 18 to use sunbeds in the UK. 

People at a higher risk of developing eyelid melanoma include those with lighter skin colours, unusually-shaped moles and those who are continuously exposed to sunlight as part of their job or lifestyle. Eyelid skin cancers, which also come in non-pigmented forms (such as squamous cell carcinoma, and basal cell carcinoma) affect men and women in equal and account for 5-10% of all skin cancers, according to The Skin Cancer Foundation Journal. The risk of developing the cancer increases with age and is strongly linked to those over the age of 50. That said, sun exposure in early life will have played a prominent role.


Wearing a large brimmed hat or cap to shade your face and eyes, and wearing sunglasses offer the best protection against sun damage. When choosing a pair of sunglasses, look for the CE Mark and British Standard (BS EN ISO 12312-1:2013), a UV 400 label and a sticker or label that guarantees 100% UV protection. Choose designs that wrap around your face.  Wear sunglasses even if you use UV contact lenses. 

Other protection measures include:

•Never looking at the sun directly, even if the sun is partially hidden by cloud

•Wearing sunglasses with UV protection

•Cutting down or stopping the use of sunbeds

A general rule of thumb is to consider the length of your shadow.  If the shadow is shorter than your height, the sun is too strong.  If the shadow is longer than your height, then you are safe.

Tongdean Eye Clinic has helped eye patients from across the UK for more than 18 years. From our base in Hove, we have performed difficult cases of cataract surgery that has changed lives for the better. Please call us on 01273 552305 for more information. 




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