How the Sun Effects Our Eyes: An Interview with an Optometrist

Revo Transom Titanium Sunglasses with Polished Brown Frame and Polarized Bronze Lens

Revo Transom Titanium Sunglasses with Polished Brown Frame and Polarized Bronze Lens

Last week, National Public Radio’s WGVU Morning Show host, Shelly Irwin, interviewed nationally renown optometrist Dr. Gary Anderson about the effects of the sun on our eyes.

Sorry to spoil the punch line, but Dr. Anderson’s bottom line is this: Wear high-quality, polarized sunglasses with 99% – 100% UVA and UVB protection, year-round, even when it’s cloudy, especially if you’re under 18 years old.

The accumulated effects of the sun’s ultraviolet rays damage our eyes in exactly the same way they damage our skin. And, according to Dr. Anderson, all the layers of the eye can and will be effected by this accumulated exposure to UV:

  • The first layer to receive the harmful effects of sunlight is, logically, the top layer, called the cornea. When too many hours of sunlight cause our eyes feel dry and itchy, this is inflammation of the cornea (keratitis). This irritation can make our eyes ache if we’ve been outside all day without proper or adequate eye protection.
  • The next surface of the eye damaged by UV light is the lens. The more UV exposure the lens receives, the earlier it will form cataracts. Cataracts are the grey-blue clouding that obstructs the passage of light to the retina. Only surgical removal of this clouding can restore a patient’s vision. Fortunately, today’s modern cataract surgery implants interocular lenses with built-in UV protection.
  • Even the deepest layer of the eye, the macula, can be injured by UV rays. This is a yellow spot near the center of the retina at the back of the eye. Macular degeneration — the breakdown of this tissue — is a major cause of blindness and visual impairment in adults over the age of 50 and is the direct result of accumulated, over-exposure to sunlight over the course of a lifetime.

Who Needs Extra Eye Protection?
Everyone should wear high quality sunglasses with 99% – 100% UVA and UVB protection. However, in our first 18 years, 50% of our lifetime exposure to sunlight takes place. Therefore, Dr. Anderson says babies should start wearing quality sunglasses no later than six months old — because their eye tissue is even more sensitive to the effects of UV light than adults’ — and children and teens should wear quality sunglasses consistently throughout childhood. (Note: Dr. Anderson also stresses of importance of explaining to children that they should never look directly at the sun, because doing so focuses the UV light directly on the back of the eye like a magnifying glass, which could actually burn a hole through the retina. So be sure to tell your kids: never, never stare into the sun, even during an eclipse.)

People taking certain medications may also experience increased UV eye sensitivity. Some common prescriptions which cause this effect include:

  • tetracyclines (a group of broad-spectrum antibiotics)
  • sulfa drugs
  • diuretics
  • tranquilizers
  • birth control pills

What’s the Best Protection?
Again, Dr. Anderson recommends good sunglasses that absorb 99% – 100% of ultraviolet A and B rays, as well as 75% – 90 % of visible light. Visible light is not UV, but simply the brightness — the glare — which polarization takes care of.

Dr. Anderson goes on to explain: “You might find a stylish pair of sunglasses at the Marathon station for $3 that keeps out the brightness, but they won’t protect you from the UV rays. Those sunglasses will actually damage your eyes more than wearing no sunglasses at all, because when you put them on, your pupils get bigger — because they’re receiving less light — but that simply lets in more UV which isn’t being blocked at all. So yes, you’re going to pay more for a good pair of sunglasses. The $3 ones won’t cut it.”

Additional sun protection for your eyes include:

  • A hat with a brim, like a baseball cap or a wide brim hat, cuts down on direct light coming from above
  • Ultraviolet-blocking soft contact lenses
  • Clear prescription eyeglasses that have an added UV-protection layer

Dr. Anderson’s Final Thoughts – “Don’t forget … “


  • On the water, sand, and snow, your UV exposure is doubled because of the reflected rays coming into your eyes from both above and below
  • The effects from the sun are worse in southern states and the closer you are to the equator
  • UV effects are worse at high altitudes where there’s less atmosphere to diffract and absorb it
  • Wear quality sunglasses year-round. Sometimes we think when it’s cloudy we don’t have to worry about it, but UV goes right through clouds

The Best of Safety Glasses USA 2011! Part II

2011 Safety Glasses USA Blog Posts

2011 provided many informative articles about products, safety tips, new announcements and more.

If you missed last week’s post, The Best of of Safety Glasses USA 2011 Part I recapped January through August’s insightful and helpful safety advise and product reviews.  This week, we’ll remember the best posts of the fall and winter months. 

September: This was one of the most exciting months of the year for Safety Glasses USA!  We were honored with the 2011 Bizrate® Circle of Excellence Platinum Award for exceptional customer service and our user-friendly website!  And if this weren’t enough, we couldn’t have been more proud to share the story and pictures from the Danville, PA, Montour Area Fire Department’s 2nd Annual Fire Safety Day Camp for kids, where we supplied fifty pairs of children’s safety glasses.

Add in eight more fantastic posts, and September was a spectacular month!  Warnings about how eye injuries can occur any time, any place were followed by a tutorial on how to handle eye emergencies when they do occur.  Then we were taught how it’s possible to actually maintain and improve eye health — especially important when extra-bright fall commutes into the morning and evening sun make driving a challenge.  Advice about Airsoft survival tactics and fall yard safety were also served up, along with outstanding reviews of the new Bolle Safety Glasses and Goggles and the amazing Pyramex I-Force Convertible Safety Goggles/Safety Glasses.

October: The perfect month for 13 amazing posts! Maybe you missed one?  Here’s your chance to check them out:

November: The spirit and the fun of the holidays were definitely on the minds of our writers this month!  Want to know how to safely deep fry a turkey while wearing your ANSI Z87.1-2010 Certified Safety Glasses?  Or which lens tints in your skiing sunglasses will serve you best on the slopes this season?  What about if you want to work off a few of those Christmas cookies with some mixed martial arts?  Then you definitely want to look the part in a pair of TAPOUT® Sunglasses — rather than cheap sunglasses that end up costing you more in the long run.  But no matter what activities you participate in outdoors this winter, don’t skip wearing sunglasses all together.  Brands like Oakley offer superior UV protection from wintertime glare, as well as eye protection, especially when decorating and working with lights and electricity this holiday season.  Then there’s the perpetual question of what to put under the tree each year?  Thankfully, here are five great suggestions for safe and healthy gifts!  And finally, November offered you not one, but two posts on the safe wear of contact lenses in the workplace or industrial environment.

December: Yes, it’s dark out there.  And getting darker every day.  So we want you to stay safe and visible in the fading light of winter whether you’re working outside or trying to get your exercise in.  Or, perhaps snowmobiling is higher on your list of priorities than outside running.  If so, don’t underestimate how much more fun sledding is while wearing a great pair of snowmobile goggles.  But no matter what kind of glasses or goggles you’re wearing this winter, it’s important to take good care of them.  “10 Good Habits for Safety Glasses Maintenance” will show you how.

And remembering that it’s always better to give than to receive, Safety Glasses USA Gift Certificates are now available!  Give the gift of safety to everyone you love this holiday season.

With a few blogs still left to post this year, the great tips and information aren’t quite over for 2011, but we certainly hope we’ve whet your appetite for all the valuable safety information to come in 2012!

Happy Holidays from Safety Glasses USA!

The Best of Safety Glasses USA 2011! Part 1

2011 Safety Glasses USA Blog Posts

2011 provided many informative articles about products, safety tips, new announcements and more.

In case you missed any of‘s fabulous and informative blogs this year, here’s Part I of a two-part recap of the best postings of 2011!

January: Mike Eldridge, President of Safety Glasses USA, kicked off the year with a review of a fascinating documentary, Celebrating 100 Years of Safety, that explores a century of workplace safety conditions.  A series of blogs followed about workplace safety today: who’s getting it right and who’s getting it horribly wrong.

February: Emergency eye wash and the best eyewear for the prevention of accidents were the theme of Mike’s posts this month.  He was quick to remind us that you can prevent eye emergencies and safeguard your employees by learning from your past mistakes, as well as those of others.  And two product reviews this month included Uvex’s Stealth Reader Goggles, goggles that provide excellent impact protection, plus the convenience of bifocal reading lenses; as well as a review of Smith Optics Elite Eyewear, perfect for both combat operations and military or law enforcement personnel in non-combat operations.

March: OSHA’s help for small businesses with crane and derrick rule compliance was offered in “Small Entity Compliance Guide for Cranes and Derricks in Construction”.  Mike also reminded us how important scaffolding safety is.  If you’re unsure why safety regulations and guidelines are so important, then take a look at “What is the True Cost of an Eye Injury?” and never wonder again.  Another post this month asked whether you could be suffering from computer vision syndrome (CVS). If you experience eye strain, irritation, or temporary vision problems after prolonged screen time, you may be.  Computer safety glasses, such as Gunnar Optiks, are designed specifically to lessen strain, and advice on keeping those glasses clean and scratch-free is important as well.

April: Wiley-X Eyewear Featured in Reload Video Game” took center stage as the sole post this month, but some posts are just so good it takes an entire month to recover.

May: Mike continued his homage to Wiley-X with his post “Top 5 Reasons To Own Wiley-X Sunglasses”.  Their shatterproof lenses, unbreakable frames, clarity, facial cavity seals, and top down ventilation make these sunglasses an excellent choice for military, law enforcement, motorcyclists, professional shooters, fisherman, and others.  And speaking of tactical eyewear, if you’ve ever wondered “How To Identify Ballistic Rated Eyewear“, this blog will answer your questions.

June: This month’s blogs started out with a bang when Mike brought you “Fireworks Eye Safety Tips“; and then, how fishing can be even more enjoyable with a great pair of polarized sunglasses.  But Mike’s poor little typing fingers got a well-deserved rest when introduced blog contributor Ali Saporito.  Ali brought you more posts all about summer fun: bicycling essentials, motorcycle sunglasses and goggles,  PIP safety glasses for women, avoiding eye injuries in the summertime, and the importance of safety glasses for do-it-yourself weekend warriors.

July: Ali delivered a triple-header this month when she blogged about three ways to make life at work more comfortable and safe by wearing computer safety glasses, making sure to stand up and stretch at regular intervals, and keeping your workspace germ-free.  And if your job requires a great deal of reading while also wearing eye protection, “4 Real World Reasons to Wear Bifocal Safety Glasses” contains valuable information you don’t want to miss.  But all work and no play makes Johnny a dull boy, so, if your free-time recreation is shooting, learn about lens color options in shooting safety glasses.

August: Yours truly joined the blogger family in August, and Ali and I combined forces with Mike to bring you posts this month all about eye safety.  We encouraged you to develop good eye safety habits — especially in the lab; highlighted the best safety glasses for dental professionals; updated you on the new eyewear rules for field hockey; provided you with a back-to-school safety checklist; and reminded you that safety glasses are an essential item in your home emergency kit.

And if you didn’t get enough great safety information, advice, and product reviews January through August, tune in next week for all the fun and surprises we delivered September through December!  Your comments are welcome below.

To be continued . . . .