UV Affect On Your Eyes & Skin (5 Helpful Overexposure Tips)

Without protection, your eyes can get sunburned the same way skin can.

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How Long Does UV Protection Last On Sunglasses?

It is important but uncommon knowledge, UV protection on sunglasses lasts around 2 years; however, the more frequently you wear your sunglasses, the quicker they will lose protection. If you have been using your favorite pair for a while, it is likely the UV protection has significantly faded, this leaves your eyes vulnerable. At this point, the industry tests are unable to check the UV levels and test how long they are safe to wear.

So how often should you replace your sunglasses? If you wear a pair of sunglasses frequently, you should replace them every two years. Taking care of your sunglasses can help extend their longevity. For example, if you often toss your sunglasses into your bag, they can get scratched. These scratches can damage the UV protection ability of the lenses. While a small scratch may not seem like much, even microscopic scratches can let damaging radiation reach your eyes. While it is not the only indicator, when the lens tint lightens, it is a sign that they are losing their UV protective layer and it is time to search for new UV protection sunglasses.

Do Regular Glasses Protect Your Eyes From UV Rays?

How do you tell if your sunglasses are actually protecting your eyes? Not all sunglasses are created equal. The stylish pair of vintage sunglasses you find in a thrift shop or the cheap pair purchased at a gas station may seem like a good buy at the time but do they have the proper UV protection?

When looking for a pair of sunglasses, there are those with ultraviolet protection embedded into the lenses, and those that have it only as a coating on the lenses. When shopping for sunglasses, keep an eye out for labels that indicate“100% protection against both UVA and UVB” or “100% protection against UV 400.”

The most important advice is to put on your sunglasses whenever you are outside and put them on your kids, please. Sunglasses are to the eyes what sunscreen is to the skin. Whether it’s cloudy or sunny, they are an essential shield to protect your health.”

John A. Moran Eye Center ophthalmologist, Jeff Pettey, MD.
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Can Eyes Recover From UV Damage?

Excessive UV exposure to the eyes can result in photokeratitis. This condition usually goes away on its own within a few days. In the short term, UV ray exposure and eye sunburn can cause uncomfortable symptoms like light sensitivity and ocular irritation. In the long term, serious conditions such as cataracts, age-related macular degeneration, and eyelid cancer may result.

Severely sunburned eyes are caused by overexposure to ultraviolet rays, like those emitted by the sun. This condition is known as photokeratitis.

Protecting your eyes from UV rays is the only way to avoid getting them sunburned. When to be extra careful:

  • Near Water: UV rays reflect off the water 
  • Outdoor Activities: Particularly when snowboarding or skiing. Snow is highly reflective. On a sunny day, clean fresh snow can reflect up to 90% of UV radiation. This means that you can be exposed to almost a double dose of UV.
  • Dense City Dwelling: UV rays easily reflect off windows, cars, buildings and even concrete streets. Regardless if the sun is visible or not outside, ultraviolet rays are present and capable of damaging your eyes.
  • Tanning Beds: Artificial UV light is also damaging to your eyes. Did you know tanning beds produce up to 100x the amount of ultraviolet rays that the sun does.

Eyelids are a particularly vulnerable area of the body.

How Long Does It Take for UV Light to Damage Eyes?

Photokeratitis, or eye sunburn, typically heals itself within one to two days. Most of us are familiar with the skin damage ultraviolet causes, but don’t realize the impact it can have on our eyes. The longer your exposure, the more short-term and long-term the impact can be. Long-term consequences can result in serious vision threatening eye conditions like cataracts or macular degeneration. After exposure, symptoms appear within eight to 24 hours. Similar to burning your skin, you can experience a wide range of symptoms with an eye sunburn. 

Book an appointment with your Optometrist if you have any of the following symptoms for more than one or two days:

  • Red eyes
  • Extreme light sensitivity
  • Gritty feeling in your eyes
  • Temporary vision loss, or distorted vision
  • Seeing halos
  • Blurry or dim vision
  • Night vision issues 
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Why Is Skin Vulnerable to UV Light?

UV, or ultraviolet rays, easily penetrate our skin and eyes. Ultraviolet rays more easily penetrate the skin of people with lighter pigmentation. However, regardless of pigmentation, any exposure to UV can cause damage to your skin, eyes, and immune system.

Our first defense against the sun is the chemical in our skin called melanin. It absorbs the harmful ultraviolet rays, but it’s unable to absorb them all and people with lighter skin (or less melanin) are more impacted.

Not staring directly into the sun is not enough to protect your eyes. Ultraviolet rays can be intense in several different environments, and exposure can impact other parts of your body. This includes premature aging of the skin due to sun damage and can result in wrinkles, leathery skin, and liver spots.

How Does UV Radiation Affect Skin Cells?

It’s common knowledge that ultraviolet rays can cause damage to our skin, including cancer. Unprotected exposure, such as skin exposure without sunscreen, damages the DNA in our skin cells. This produces genetic mutations that can lead to skin cancer, along with causing premature aging, cataracts and even eyelid cancer.

There are long term serious conditions that can result from ultraviolet exposure. These include cataracts, age-related macular degeneration, and various forms of eyelid and skin cancers.

It’s important to protect your eyes, and to take extra precautions when you’re in high altitudes where air is thin and UV rays are strong.

Overexposure to UV (5 Things To Do About It)

If you are experiencing any of the previously mentioned symptoms during the first day or two, you can try some of these for relief. Remember that if symptoms last longer than a day or two, see your Optometrist.

  1. Remove Contact Lenses. Keeping your eyes free from contact lenses can help provide relief. Immediately remove contact lenses to give your eyes an opportunity to heal.
  2. Don’t Rub Your Eyes. We know it’s hard to resist, especially when your eyes are irritated. But rubbing can cause additional damage to your eyes and increase the irritation.
  3. Rest Your Eyes. Resting in a dark room, with your eyes closed, and using a cool compress can provide relief.
  4. Use UV Sunglasses. With sunburnt eyes, you may experience light sensitivity. This means it will be extra important to wear your sunglasses in order to reduce the strain from bright lights.
  5. Avoid Makeup. Makeup and false eyelashes can cause additional irritation. Your eyes are more likely to water, causing further opportunities for makeup or irritants to get into your eyes.

Book an appointment with your Optometrist if you have are experiencing discomfort for more than one or two days.