Sunglasses May Protect Against Macular Degeneration, Cataracts and Glaucoma 

Sunglasses May Protect Against Macular Degeneration, Cataracts and Glaucoma 

Sometimes it is the simplest things that can assist your optimal health. Eating a sensible diet, exercising several times per week, getting enough sleep and lowering stress are some of the top choices. Now, regarding your future vision, it looks as though something as simple as wearing sunglasses may help slow or prevent macular degeneration and other vision diseases such as cataracts and glaucoma.

At this time in history, aside from pollution, it seems that there are two major factors when it comes to outside threats on your sight. These are:

  • More intense sunlight due to various climate changes
  • A rapidly growing digital world continually exposing you to blue light from assorted devices including computers, phones, tablets and public kiosks

If you currently struggle with macular degeneration, cataracts or glaucoma or want to do everything you can to prevent it, learn how something as simple as choosing and wearing specific sunglasses just may keep you out of harms way.


Some people feel that wearing sunglasses is ineffective, expensive, makes them look too sinister or creates an appearance as if they are making some sort of fashion statement. Yet, at the beach they will slather their skin with SPF (sun protection factor) 50+ to avoid skin cancer but skip sunglasses altogether, especially not to get facial tan lines.

United Press International (UPI) reported in the article, ‘Most Americans risking sun damage to their eyes, study says’ (5/16),

“Despite three-quarters of Americans claiming to be worried about their vision being damaged by UV rays from the sun, less than one-third actually buy sunglasses or find another way to protect their eyes, according to new research.”

Add in the mindset that kids don’t need sunglasses because, well, they’re kids and the dangers may start earlier than expected.

Cover Up for Vision Health

According to several studies regarding the effects of sunlight on the human eye, it seems that rethinking wearing sunglasses, even on a cloudy day, may significantly improve your odds when it comes to developing macular degeneration, cataracts and glaucoma.

A research article published in Harvard University’s Health Publications (6/15), stated,

  • Our eyes are most vulnerable to the sun’s ultraviolet rays in our teens, 20s, and 30s, although the damage usually doesn’t show up until later in life
  • The sun’s rays are especially intense near reflective surfaces

Dr. Louis Pasquale, an ophthalmologist at Harvard affiliated Massachusetts Eye and Ear

Infirmary commented,

“If you spend time near the water, the beach, or snow, the sunlight bounces off of those surfaces

and right into the eyes,”

This was also cited in the UPI report,

“Cataracts and macular degeneration, both of which are linked to longer-term eye damage, are just as big a risk as sunburn on the eye, called photokeratitis, or growths on the eye, known as pterygium — both of which can be caused by as little as a few hours of exposure to intense, unblocked sunlight.”

Patient Report

Sometimes a real life example can open your eyes (literally) to the potential dangers of how avoiding sunglasses may be a wrong move. Life, a Reading Eagle Company site, reports of patient Juli Cleaver who never wore sunglasses so as to avoid sun tan lines. She never even found them helpful while driving. However, after noticing a “clear raised bump in her left eye” Cleaver made an appointment with her eye doctor, she comments,

“I went to the doctor to make sure it wasn’t anything, and he said it’s actually sun damage, and I have it in both of my eyes,”

Shocked by the diagnosis Cleaver immediately purchased a pair of sunglasses. She continues,

“That was an eye-opener, because I’m only in my late 30s, and I never expected him to say I had sun damage in my eyes, I learned it’s important to protect your eyes. Like sunscreen for your skin, you need protection for your eyes,”

Dr. Jacquelyn Horst, an optometrist with Berks Eye Physicians and Surgeons cites three of the biggest concerns about not wearing sunglasses,

“The UV rays can cause damage to the eyelid and the skin area as far as skin cancers. Also, the more exposure you have to UV, the quicker you can develop cataracts, and it increases your risk for macular degeneration.”

Harvard Health describes a common symptom called exfoliation syndrome, which may have been part of Juli Cleaver’s diagnosis,

“Worldwide, exfoliation syndrome is the most common identifiable cause of secondary open-angle glaucoma and secondary closed-angle glaucoma. Exfoliation syndrome is also linked to cataracts and possibly to macular degeneration.”

Dr. Pasquale commented,

“Research has shown that women between ages 15 and 24 who spend 10 hours a week in the sun seem to have a twofold risk of exfoliation syndrome compared with people who spend two or three hours a week in the sun,”

Choosing the Right Protection

There are so many choices of sunglasses it can be very hard to sift through them without getting confused and discouraged. This is especially true when it comes to price as choosing inexpensive lenses may not be in your best interest. Basically, you want to get the most UV (ultraviolet) protection over the entire surface of your eye sockets. Ultraviolet protection comes in three levels, A, B, C.

  • UVA – Protects against the most damaging of invisible UV radiation
  • UVB – Protects against solar energy which is the cause of sunburn and snow blindness
  • UVC – Protects against least harmful rays already filtered by the earth’s ozone layer

The American Macular Degeneration Foundation (AMDF) describes what to look for,

“UV protection is available for clear lenses as well as sunglasses. The UV protection that is available is an invisible coating that doesn’t change the color of the eyeglass lens. Misleading claims about certain glasses providing UV protection can be easily confusing to consumers. A pair of glasses might be labeled UV absorbent, for example, but the label might not indicate exactly how much UVA and UVB rays are blocked. Sunglasses should be labeled UV 400. It is recommended that you protect yourself from UV radiation up to 400 nanometers, which extends into part of the visible spectrum to ensure complete blockage of ultraviolet light. This is what distinguishes “cheap” sunglasses from more expensive ones.”

In addition to UV protection you want to make sure the lenses are,

  • Scratch resistant
  • Polarized with anti-reflective coating – These eliminate glare (tinted glasses just shade glare)
  • Melanin lenses – If available, but not required, melanin lenses incorporate a synthetic melanin which absorbs harmful UV and blue light (just like the melanin humans naturally produce but lose about half by age 65)

Make sure your sunglasses are large enough that they cover the entire eye and as much side covering as possible. Side light can be just as damaging as direct light.

Wearing sunglasses goes beyond looking cool. Today it should be as necessary as wearing your seat belt because when it comes to your eyes, the risk is just too high. It as an easy fix that just may help slow or prevent macular degeneration, cataracts and glaucoma.