Research suggests that the harmful UVA and UVB rays contained in sunlight may be a factor in a number of eye diseases, in particular cataracts.
UVA and UVB rays are invisible rays contained in sunlight. They are the rays that we protect our skin from so that we don't get sunburn. Because our eyes rely on light to work properly, UVA and UVB rays also enter our eyes. Much of the UV light is absorbed by the structures of the eye without any damage. However it has been shown that high exposure to UVA and UVB are risk factors for the development of cataracts.
The best way to protect against this damage is to use a UV filter that stops most of the harmful rays of the sun entering the eyes.
Most prescription glasses now have a built in UV filter, if you have a regular pair of glasses it may be worth asking your optometrist to make sure that they include a UV filter.
Many brands of contact lenses now also have UV protection - again you can check this with your optometrist.
Sunglasses are also an excellent way of protecting your eyes from the UV light.
Many tints are available and the lightness or darkness and the colour of the tint are largely a matter of personal choice.
Sunglasses with a CE mark show that they are made to an agreed European standard. There is also a British standard for sunglasses which should be looked for when buying them BSEN 1836:1997.
Sunglasses may also help people that are light sensitive or have problems dealing with glare.
A full range of eyeshields and sunglasses are available to buy in the Eyeshields and sunglasses section of the RNIB shop.
In the UK, on a day to day basis, UV exposure is very small. However people who spend lots of time outdoors may need protection. Those living in countries with more sun may also need to take more care.
The UV exposure is also much higher where there are more reflective surfaces, for example near water, so protecting your eyes while at the beach, fishing, boating or on holiday is probably a good idea.
Snow also intensifies the amount of reflected UV light, so good protection is needed in these circumstances. Skiers and snowboarders should take particular care.