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Pam Turrell

Prevent Blindness
Phone: (800) 301-2020 ext. 118



Protecting Eyes from Ultraviolet Rays May Help Save Vision Today and in the Future


Columbus, OH (May 13, 2014) – Exposure to ultraviolet (UV) rays can be very harmful to the body.  According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the United States.  Yet the most preventable cause of this type of cancer is exposure to UV light. 


And, the Environmental Protection Agency states that basal cell carcinoma is the most common type of skin cancer to affect the eyelids and may appear on the lower lid, in the corners of the eye and under eyebrows. Many people may also not be aware of the damage that UV rays can have on the eyes and vision as well.


Prevent Blindness, the nation’s oldest eye health and safety organization, has declared May as UV Awareness Month to help educate the public on the dangers of UV and steps to take to protect vision today and in the future.  Because UV damage to the eyes can be immediate and cumulative, it is imperative to learn how to protect sight today. 


Eye problems that UV rays can cause include:


Cataract- UV rays, especially UV-B rays, may also cause some kinds of cataracts. A cataract is a clouding of the eye’s natural lens, the part of the eye that focuses the light we see.


Corneal Sunburn- Corneal sunburn, called photokeratitis, is the result of high short-term exposure to UV-B rays. Long hours at the beach or skiing without proper eye protection can cause this problem. It can be very painful and may cause temporary vision loss.


Macular Degeneration- UV rays may lead to macular degeneration, a leading cause of vision loss for older Americans.


Pterygium- A growth that begins on the white of the eye and may involve the cornea. Eventually, the growth may block vision. It is more common in people who work or spend extended periods of time outside in the sun and wind.


Skin Cancer- Skin cancer around the eyelids is also linked to prolonged UV exposure.

There are different types of UV. UV-A radiation has lower energy and penetrates deep into the eye which may injure the macula, the part of the retina responsible for sight in the center field of vision.  UV-B radiation is presumably more dangerous and is mainly absorbed by the cornea and lens of the eye and can damage those tissues. 


Prevent Blindness strongly recommends that both adults and children always wear both a wide-brimmed hat or cap and the proper UV-rated sunglasses.  Wrap-around sunglasses are best as they protect the eyes and the skin around the eyes. There are also many types of sports eye protection glasses that offer UV protection as well.  Ask an eye doctor for his or her recommendations.


“It is so important for us to always remember to protect our eyes from UV rays when headed outdoors.  And, to consistently provide a good example for our children,” said Sherry Williams, President & CEOof the Ohio Affiliate of Prevent Blindness.  “By demonstrating the importance of protecting our vision, we can hopefully help save sight for ourselves and for generations to come.”


For more information on the dangers of UV exposure and how to choose the best UV protection, please visit the Prevent Blindness dedicated Web page at, or visit  (800) 301-2020.



About Prevent Blindness 

Founded in 1908, Prevent Blindness is the nation's leading volunteer eye health and safety organization dedicated to fighting blindness and saving sight. The Ohio Affiliate of Prevent Blindness is Ohio’s leading volunteer nonprofit public health organization dedicated to prevent blindness and preserve sight. We serve all 88 Ohio counties, providing direct services to more than 800,000 Ohioans annually and educating millions of consumers about what they can do to protect and preserve their precious gift of sight. For more information or to make a contribution, call 800-301-2020.  Or, visit us on the web at or Twitter at!/PB_Ohio






  • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states that skin cancer is the most common cancer in the United States. The most preventable cause of skin cancer is exposure to ultraviolet (UV) light.
  • Too much exposure to UV light raises the risks of eye diseases, including cataract, macular degeneration, growths on the eye, and cancer. (AAO/Eyesmart-
  • According to the World Health Organization, children are more exposed to the sun than adults. Estimates suggest up to 80% of a person’s lifetime exposure to UV rays is received before the age of 18.
  • The American Optometric Association states that children and teenagers are particularly susceptible to the sun's damaging rays because they typically spend more time outdoors than adults, and the lenses of their eyes are more transparent than those of adults. The transparent lenses allow more short wavelength light to reach the retina of the eye.
  • Symptoms of a corneal sunburn will usually not appear until 6-12 hours after exposure.  So, one can suffer a severe corneal sunburn and not realize it immediately after.  (Palmer Eye Center)
  • The Office of Air and Radiation at the Environmental Protection Agency states that basal cell carcinoma is the most common type of skin cancer to affect the eyelids and may appear on the lower lid, in the corners of the eye and under eyebrows.
  • Most rigid contact lenses also provide UV protection — but because contact lenses don't cover the entire eye, it's still important to wear sunglasses when you're outdoors.  (
  • Both UV-A and UV-B radiation have been shown to be harmful to the eye. While UV-A has lower energy, it does penetrate deep into the eye and may injure the macula, the part of the retina responsible for sight in the center field of vision.
  • UV-B radiation is presumably more dangerous because it is short wavelength radiation with higher energy. UV-B is mainly absorbed by the cornea and lens of the eye and can damage those tissues.
  • Altitude increases radiation with an increase intensity of 16 percent for every 1000 meters above sea level.  (
  • The risk is greatest during midday hours from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. and even during overcast days.
  • Tanning beds can produce UV levels up to 100 times what you would get from the sun, which can cause serious damage to the external and internal structures of the eye and eyelids (, AAO)
  • Never look directly at the sun. Looking directly at the sun at any time, including during an eclipse, can lead to solar retinopathy, which is damage to the eye's retina from solar radiation. (, AAO)
  • When using medications that can cause sensitivity to light (photosensitivity). (, AAO)

How can one lower the risk of developing UV-related eye disease and disorders?


The best defense for everyone is to wear sunglasses that screen 99 to 100 percent of UV rays and brimmed hats. Brimmed hats alone will block about 50 percent of UV radiation. Ideally, all types of eyewear should absorb at least the full spectrum of UV rays including UV-A and UV-B. The degree of UV protection is not necessarily related to the price of the sunglasses. Consumers should buy sunglasses that are labeled: absorbs 99-100 percent of UV-A and UV-B rays.


It is very important to keep several things in mind in particular when buying sunglasses for children. Kid’s glasses should be made of unbreakable polycarbonate. (unless glass is required by the eye doctor). The frames should be bendable and the lenses should not pop out. Check to make sure the glasses fit well, because children will not wear glasses that don’t fit well. It is best to have the child try the glasses on and make sure they shield enough of the eye above, below and on the sides.