Your Guide to Sunglasses and UV Protection for Your Eyes

Sunglasses are not just a stylish fashion accessory. They are quite literally a front-line protection for your eyes.

UV Light: What it is, and Why Protection is Needed

UV (Ultraviolet) radiation is a component of light that does not fall within the visible spectrum of light. Thus, even on cloudy days when there is little perceptible sunlight, your eyes can be exposed to UV rays.

There are three categories of UV radiation, which each have different levels of risk to you.


While UVC rays have the highest energy of the UV radiation varieties, and are theoretically the most dangerous for your eyes, the planet’s natural ozone layer in the atmosphere blocks almost all UVC rays and prevents them from reaching us.


UVB rays, however, are only partially filtered out by the ozone layer, with a portion making its way to us on the surface. Low doses of UVB rays are responsible for suntans, though overexposure can lead to the far less desirable sunburn, in addition to raising the risk of skin cancer. Too much UVB exposure can also lead to premature aging of the skin in the form of discolorations and wrinkles.

They can lead to eye problems as well. Too much UVB exposure can lead to photokeratitis, pinguecula , and pterygium.


UVA rays, which are lower energy than UVB and UVC, and which are closest to visible light, are particularly dangerous because they can pass through the cornea and into the retina of the eye.

Too much UVA radiation exposure can lead to the development of several types of cataracts, and may be linked to macular degeneration as well.

Levels of UV Risk

The UV index created by the National Environmental Protection Agency and the National Weather Service gives you a color-coded warning system to keep people aware of the level of UV risk on any given day.

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Protecting Yourself From UV Radiation

Sunglasses are the single best way to protect your eyes from UV radiation. However, not all sunglasses are equal. You should be wearing sunglasses that are rated to block 100 percent of UV rays while outdoors during daylight, even on cloudy days. While clouds obscure visible light, the more damaging UV rays are not so easily stopped. It is also recommended that you wear sunglasses with close-fitting frames, as they provide additional protection on the sides of your eyes.

It should also be noted that the color or darkness of the lens does not mean it is any better or worse at protecting you from UV rays. Your optician will be able to verify the level of protection your lenses will provide.

Larger lenses can also provide protection not only for your eyes, but for the delicate skin around them.

In addition to sunglasses, wearing a wide-brimmed hat on sunny days can reduce UV exposure to your eyes by up to 50 percent.

Children and UV Protection

Damage to the eyes and skin from UV radiation is cumulative, so it is highly recommended to start protecting your eyes from an early age. Especially since children tend to spend more time outside than adults, so much so that some experts say that more than half of a person’s lifetime UV radiation exposure can occur by age 18, they should be wearing sunglasses while outdoors.

Additionally, since the lenses inside childrens’ eyes are usually clearer than those in adults, it is easier for UV rays to penetrate deeper into the eye.

Children and UV Protection
Will My Sunglasses Protect Me?

Will My Sunglasses Protect Me?

While the price of sunglasses doesn’t necessarily determine how well they’ll protect your eyes, it is probably best to avoid the cheapest options you’ll find in supermarkets or drugstores. 

Tinted lenses may cut down on the glare from sunlight, but if they don’t include proper UV blocking, they can actually lead to more eye damage as the eyes, thinking it’s darker around them, will dilate the pupils and let in more UV rays.

When shopping for sunglasses, look for ones with a sticker or tag that indicates how well they are able to block UV rays, and purchase only ones that provide 99 or 100 percent protection. Additionally, it is recommended to look for sunglasses which include an antireflective treatment to the back side of the lenses, as a significant amount of UV rays that reach the eyes are reflected from the back surfaces of lenses.

When choosing sunglasses, go for those that will fit your face well and provide protection, over something stylish.


Dr. Zurcher cartoon

Sunglasses Are About Fashion and Healthy Eyes

If you’re unsure about what sort of protection your sunglasses can provide you, you can ask our eye doctor and optician to evaluate them for you. Eye protection is important; make sure you make an informed purchase.


Such a nice optician. My grandson is only 4 and needs glasses. We were so sad, but he explained the issues, and we will follow up as he suggested.

Anna P.

I had such a good experience with the clinic. Very friendly staff and doctor, did not have to wait for long to be called, and was treated respectfully. Thanks, American Family.

June S.

Dr. Zurcher has gone above and beyond what any other eye doctor has ever done to figure out what is going on with my eyes. Very happy with American Family Vision.

Christine R.

Family Vision Clinic changed our lives! My daughter was frequently car sick, and she was getting headaches every day, often painful enough that they brought her to tears. We saw a string of doctors and therapists, but we made no progress. Finally, we found Dr. Levi Zurcher and his eye therapist Rain. After ten weeks of eye therapy my daughter no longer gets headaches, and she no longer gets car sick. Daily tears are a thing of the past. I really can’t say enough about this clinic. It was fascinating to watch Dr. Zurcher work. For the first time, someone who knew what they were doing was intently studying my daughter, really trying to figure out all of her eye issues, and his therapist Rain is one of the most patient and lovely people that I’ve ever had the good fortune to meet. We’re finished with eye therapy—yay!—and I have switched to American Family Vision Clinic for all of my family’s other eye health needs.

Lars Wulff

Very professional, yet kind and helpful. They do what they can to make the appointment comfortable. I was running a bit late, I made sure ti call. They were able to switch me with a patient who was already there, they treated me with respect, and helped my son have confidence by getting him the eye care he needed that day. Thank you so much! Would recommend to anyone. It's a blessing that they care enough to work with people who have all different types of insurance from work to state coverage.

Justin E.

The staff is friendly. The Doc is very knowledgeable. The office is family friendly and everyone is so patient with the little ones.

Amy Fagerness
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