Beware the Glare!

Keeping your eyes protected from those colorful, harmful rays.

Part 1 of 2

Sunglasses-we sit on them; throw them in our purse, sometimes even let our kids play with them.  My son, now 3, has been banned from playing with my sunglasses due to his bad track record! He’s successfully broken 3 pairs within a few months time.  If you’re careless with your glasses or had yours accidently broken by someone else, you can relate! But, do you tend to go out and buy a replacement pair as soon as possible or hold-off while?  You tell yourself, a short period of time without your shades won’t do any harm, right? For those of you that go without your sunglasses or just plain don’t wear any at all, there can be short and long term consequences to your vision with repetitive exposure to ultraviolet (UV) light and High Energy Visible (HEV) Radiation.

The truth of the matter is, that roughly 30% of people don’t protect their eyes from harmful UV and HEV radiation. If the eyes aren’t protected adequately and continually, the eyes will see it.  No matter the weather outside, your eyes need to be protected.  Premature aging of the eye as well as various diseases and disorders can result from harmful UV and HEV radiation. The American Optometric Association (AOA) says specific precautionary measures should be taken to protect the eyes.  Some short and long term damage seen with cumulative exposure to UV radiation and are:

  • Sunburn of the eyes
  • Benign growths within and around the eye
  • Macular degeneration
  • Skin cancer around the eye
  • Cataracts
  • Blurry vision
  • Blindness
  • Retinal damage

Serious changes can take place within the eye from UV and HEV radiation.  Even if the sunlight doesn’t bother you or you don’t “feel” any discomfort when traveling out doors, your eyes are at risk.  Prevention occurs by taking precaution and protecting your eyes. The American National Standards Institute (ANSI) suggests that certain criteria’s should be met when shopping for sunglasses:

First, evaluate the intended use of the sunglasses-what do you plan on doing while wearing them?  There are two types of classifications based on use – Normal and Prolonged Exposure.  Normal would fall under driving or getting in and out of your car.  Prolonged Exposure is considered for times such as fishing, at the beach, long walks, hiking, skiing or even mowing the grass.

Second, look at UVA, UVB, UVC, and HEV protection.

  • UVA rays emit the lowest energy, but can penetrate the cornea and can reach inside the eye to the retia and lens causing damage.
  • UVB rays are mostly blocked by the ozone layer, however some come in contact with the eyes and body.  These rays cause the skin to darken by stimulating melanin.  High doses of UVB rays can cause sunburns as well as wrinkles and skin cancer.
  • UVC rays are considered to be the most harmful on the eyes and body, however the ozone layer potentially blocks all UVC rays.  The ANSI has two standards for sunglasses on radiation protection.  Class 1 blocks 95% UVA and 99% of UVB rays.  Class 2 absorbs 70% UVA and 95% UVB radiation.   Any sunglasses claiming to have UV protection must at least meet class 2 standards.
  • High Energy Visible (HEV) radiation, also sometimes called blue light has a longer wavelength then ultraviolet radiation but can penetrate the skin and eyes deeper than the others, potentially being more harmful.  Look for sunglasses that offer 100% UV radiation along with some HEV protection.

Third, pay attention to the color of the lenses.  Color matters when looking to block out HEV radiation.  Any color variation should provide the same amount of UV protection, however sticking to gray tented lenses block out excess light without obstructing objects in view.  Copper or brown-tented lenses will block out more blue light, providing more HEV protection.  Amber colored lenses increase contrast while still reducing light, and are best for athletes and those with visual impairments.

Some other things to keep in mind when protecting your eyes are:

  • Consuming a diet rich in antioxidants including vitamin A, C, E and Zinc help protect collagen and keep other tissues surrounding the eye healthy.
  • Wearing sunglasses big enough to cover the entire eye, even when looking to the side, can help reduce further damage to the eyes and surrounding skin.
  • Think about the time of day you are venturing out.  Between 10am-4pm is when the sun is at its highest, potentially causing more damage.

Constant exposure to UV and HEV radiation can cause damage to the eyes and surrounding skin.  Avoid further damage by adequately protecting your eyes!

Think its just adults that need protection from UV and HEV radiation?  Think again! Children are at an even greater risk for cumulative damage to the eyes.  Join me next week to find out why!




DEFINE’s senior instructor and anatomy specialist, Lori Hudson Bertrand D.C., R.N. is a doctor in chiropractic and registered nurse. Her love for helping people through education about anatomy and physiology drives her to continue to share her experiences and knowledge with others as they pursue their journey towards health and restoration!



The Vision Council

University of Houston

American Optometric Association