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Do Sunglasses Protect or Harm Your Eye Health?

Analysis by Dr. Joseph Mercola Fact Checked

Story at-a-glance -

  • Ultraviolet radiation from the sun can damage proteins in your eyes, over time raising your risk for cataracts
  • In one study, people with the highest UV exposure levels over the previous 65 years had a 53% increased risk for cataracts and 59% higher odds for age-related macular degeneration (AMD) compared to those with intermediate exposure
  • Subjects with the lowest UV exposure levels had an even greater risk for AMD — 69% — compared to those in the intermediate exposure group. This and other findings suggest the impact of sunlight on eye health is not all cut and dry
  • Other research found late AMD onset was not associated with any particular light variable, while people “exposed to high ambient solar radiation and those with frequent leisure exposure to sunlight” had a 27% reduced risk of early signs of AMD
  • A 2017 study found spending more time outside in bright sunlight early in life, especially in your teens and early adulthood, lowers your risk of nearsightedness

I’ve written many articles detailing the general health benefits (and potential but largely avoidable risks) of sun exposure. But did you know sun exposure impacts your eye health as well? Here too, there are both risks and benefits, which largely prevents any hard and fast recommendations from being made.

Starting with the risks, research funded by the U.S. National Eye Institute published in 2014 found ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun can damage proteins in your eyes, over time raising your risk for cataracts.


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