Are your eyes at risk in the sun?

People who work or play in the sun for long periods of time are at the greatest risk of UV-related eye conditions.


The risk of sun related eye problems is higher for people who:

  • spend long hours in the sun
  • spend time at high altitudes or closer to the equator, since UV radiation is more intense in these areas
  • have had cataract surgery* or have certain retina disorders
  • are on certain medicines, such as tetracycline, sulfa drugs, birth control pills, diuretics and tranquilizers that increase the eye’s sensitivity to light.


*If you have had cataract surgery, you may be more at risk of injury from sunlight unless the artificial lens you received during surgery absorbs UV rays.


Is all sun harmful to the eyes?


Almost 60 per cent of Australians believe it is only the midday sun that poses the greatest UV threat but this not the case. UV exposure to the eye before 10am and after 2pm may be higher than during the middle of the day on some days due to the angle of the sun in relation to the eye.


The best way to protect your eyes against sun damage is to follow the advice given by SunSmart and the Optometric Association of Australia.

  1. Wear a broad-brimmed hat as it can reduce the amount of UV reaching your eyes by up to 50%
  2. Wear UV-protective sunglasses that wrap around your face
  3. Wear sunscreen around the face to avoid skin cancers of the eyelids


As optometrists we are often asked are all sunglasses the same? What are the differences between sunglasses?


Both the Ophthalmology and Optometry associations are united in their recommendations to ensure sunglasses:

  • are rated Category 3 of the Australian Standards for UV protection;
  • have a wraparound frame, designed to minimise unfiltered side light entering the eye;
  • have lenses with UV 400 protection;
  • have lens coatings to block reflected light from entering the eye; and
  • have polarised lenses.


Always read labels carefully!

Look for labels that clearly state the sunglasses block 99 to 100% of UV-A and UV-B rays. Dark lenses does not mean that they will protect your eyes from the sun. The lenses must have the ability to block UVA and B rays and this can only be guaranteed by ensuring the products have the label with at least category 3 of the Australian Standards.


At Kosmac and Clemens we can help guide you through the different sunglasses available.   Come in store and ask our helpful staff.Woman looking into the sun

By Dr. Arthur Stevens – Optometrist and Director at Kosmac & Clemens Optometrists