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Ultraviolet Light (UV) Safety Tips

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Margo Kerrigan, M.P.H., Area Director
Indian Health Service California Area Office

Ultraviolet light (UV) safety is sponsored by the American Academy of Ophthalmology and is intended to remind everyone to protect their eyes from the sun by wearing sunglasses and wide-brimmed hats when outside.

While some exposure to sunlight can be enjoyable, too much is dangerous. Not only can sunlight cause sunburns, but it can also cause eye damage. Studies show that exposure to bright sunlight may increase the risk of developing cataracts and macular degeneration, both leading causes of vision loss among older adults. Too much exposure to ultraviolet light (the radiation put out by the sun) can damage the cornea, the eye's surface, or even cause cancerous growths on the eye. The more exposure to bright light, the greater the chance of developing eye conditions. Everyone, including children, is at risk for eye damage from exposure to sunlight. Eyes never recover from UV exposure.

Take these steps to help protect your eyes and your eyesight:

  • Select sunglasses that block ultraviolet rays. Make sure the sunglasses block 97 to 100% of UV-A and UV-B rays. Do not select sunglasses based on color or cost; the ability of sunglasses to block UV light is not dependent on the darkness of the lens or how expensive they are.
  • If possible, select sunglasses that wrap all the way around to your temples to keep light from coming in the side.
  • Even if you wear contacts with UV protection, wear sunglasses.
  • Wear your sunglasses whenever you are outside, but especially in the early afternoon and in higher altitudes, where UV light is more intense. Remember that the sun's rays can pass through haze and thin clouds, so wear sunglasses even on cloudy days.
  • Wear sun protection year round; sun damage to the eyes can occur any time of the year, not just in summer. Your eyes can be damaged from UV light reflecting off of sand, snow, water, or pavement.
  • In addition to your sunglasses, wear a broad-rimmed hat to protect your eyes and your face from UV light.
  • Make sure to take special care on very bright days. Intense, excessive exposure to UV light can damage the eye's surface.

  • Remember to protect children's eyes from the sun as well. Have them wear hats and sunglasses when playing outside, and try to limit sun exposure between the hours of 10am-2pm, when the sun's UV rays are the strongest.

  • For more information on UV safety, visit the American Academy of Ophthalmology web site at http://www.aao.orgExit Disclaimer – You Are Leaving www.ihs.gov

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