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Protect your eyes from the sun


Enjoying the great outdoors and soaking up the warmth of the Australian sun can be a great pleasure but we need to remind ourselves that those rays are actually ultraviolet radiation. And just like our skin, our eyes are prone to sunburn and permanent damage.

The most common cause of vision loss in people over the age of 40 and the principal cause of blindness in the world is cataract. A key environmental trigger for this clouding of the eye lens is long-term exposure to sunlight without eye protection.

Australia’s medical eye doctors – ophthalmologists – warn that great care should be exercised in protecting our vision which most people rate as their most valued faculty.

RANZCO’s Public Health Committee chair, Prof Stephanie Watson advises her patients that “Sunglasses and a hat should really be mandatory for eye protection when in bright sunlight for any length of time.”

These simple precautions can help prevent not only cataract but age-related macular degeneration, eye cancer and pterygium. Excessive sunlight can also cause the eyes to become red and sore. Overtime it can cause pterygium which often affects board-riders and is also known as surfer’s eye. Nearly 9000 cases of this disease are treated in Australian annually.

Cancers of the eye’s surface and delicate eyelid skin can also occur with long-term sun exposure. In the short term, acute photo keratopathy can result, akin to sunburn of the cornea, which can cause severe pain and inflammation.

If you have any concerns about your eyes, seek a referral to your local ophthalmologist and make sure you protect what most of us regard as our most valuable asset: SIGHT.


  • wear wrap-around sunglasses with UV filters and a broad-brimmed hat when outdoors (for all ages)
  • buy sunglasses that meet the Australian/New Zealand Standard for sunglasses
  • limit your time in the sun
Last updated: November 29, 2018

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