Ultraviolet (UV) light is an invisible, electromagnetic radiation. Your exposure to UV rays comes primarily from the sun, even on a cloudy day. The sun emits UV rays, and unprotected, prolonged exposure can cause serious vision problems. Many Americans may not understand the dangers of UV exposure and take needless risks with their eyesight. The Vision Council's VisionWatch survey of more than 10,000 adults shows Americans are concerned about potential eye problems from the sun's UV rays, yet they have a passive relationship with UV-protective sunglasses. The findings, detailed in our latest report, "Spare Your Sight: Using Shades for Protection and Style," show:
- Only 31% protect their eyes with sunglasses every time they go outside.
- 34% have experienced symptoms of prolonged UV exposure, such as eye irritation, trouble seeing, and red or swollen eyes.
- When it comes to buying shades, more people are concerned with fit (65%) and affordability (54%) than UV protection (44%).
Further, many Americans (39%) only reach for their sunglasses when they are outside for two or more hours, but UV damage can start in as little as 15 minutes. It's critical to know the harms of UV radiation and solutions for protecting our eyes no matter the season, location or activity. Sunglasses, the unsung hero of American accessories, are essential for maintaining healthy vision and looking great outdoors.
Skin vs. Eyes – Protection Matters
UV radiation is no joke. Most people take UV seriously when they think about skin cancer, but they often don't register the danger to their vision. The protective value of sunscreen and hats to shield skin from UV damage is far better understood and practiced compared to UV eye protection.
When asked about the dangers of UV, people are much more likely to be aware it causes skin cancer and sunburn, but far fewer Americans grasp the potential impacts on their vision, such as sunburned eyes, cataracts and age-related macular degeneration (AMD).
Whether your time spent outdoors is brief or spans a longer time, making UV-protective sunglasses part of your everyday life is vital for eye health. In addition to the cumulative damage, short-term issues can also arise when spending a substantial amount of time without shades, such as:
- Bloodshot eyes
- Swollen eyes
- Hypersensitivity to light
- Photokeratitis, or sunburn of the eye
Important Steps to Maintaining Eye Health
A comprehensive annual eye exam is critical to keeping eyes healthy. Eye exams can diagnose early signs of damage from UV exposure, when it's most treatable. It's also important to decrease UV exposure by wearing sunglasses any time you are outdoors, year-round.
To learn more about the dangers of UV and how to choose the best sunglasses for your lifestyle, download the report and accompanying infographic with key report statistics.
Wear your sunglasses every time you go outside. And remember to celebrate National Sunglasses Day on June 27. For more information, visit nationalsunglassesday.com.