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The Eye-Opening Truth About UV Damage: Why You Need Protection

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The sun's rays sustain life on earth. While they have benefits, these rays can also be hazardous. Ultraviolet rays can harm the lens, cornea, and other parts of the eye, making it very important to always protect your eyes when outdoors.

Contact us at Martin Street Optometry to learn how we can help protect your eyes, and schedule an appointment with one of our optometrists.

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Understanding the Different UV Rays and Their Impact On Your Eyes

The classification of UV radiation is broken into three categories: UVA, UVB, and UVC. UVC rays are the most harmful. However, the earth’s atmosphere blocks them from reaching us. UVA and UVB rays reach the surface and can cause damage to our eyes.

UVA rays can penetrate deep into the skin and eyes, causing long-term damage, such as premature skin aging and cataracts. UVB rays are shorter, and only impact the surface of the skin and eyes, but can still lead to damage.

Why is it Important to Protect Your Eyes, Even in Canada?

In Canada, the UV Index scale ranges from 0 to 11+. Southern Ontario typically experiences the highest values, with occasional readings of 12. It's important to monitor the UV Index and take appropriate precautions to protect yourself from harmful UV radiation.

Photokeratitis, commonly known as sunburn of the eye, is a painful condition that can cause redness in the eyes, a sensation of a foreign object or grittiness, extreme light sensitivity, and excessive tearing. Protecting your eyes from UV rays is essential to prevent this uncomfortable and potentially dangerous condition. Remember to wear sunglasses that block both UVA and UVB rays and a hat to shield your eyes from the sun.

If you experience any symptoms of photokeratitis, seek medical attention as soon as possible.

How to Keep Your Eyes Safe No Matter the Season in Canada

UV radiation can be as dangerous in winter as it is in summer. Snow reflects up to 80% of UV radiation, which can increase the risk of photokeratitis (snow blindness), a painful condition that can cause temporary vision loss.

In the summer, it’s important to stay in the shade during peak UV radiation hours, between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.

When the weather is still cool in the spring, it’s easy to forget about sun safety. But keep in mind that UV rays can still damage your eyes, even if it’s overcast outside. Keep a pair of sunglasses on hand and seek shelter from the sun when possible.

Vision Problems Caused by UV Light

Macular Degeneration

Ultraviolet rays could contribute to age-related macular degeneration (AMD), which is a primary cause of eyesight loss among the elderly. Exposure to high-energy visible (HEV) radiation, otherwise known as blue light from the sun, can contribute to the onset of AMD. Unlike UV radiation, HEV rays are visible. People with low levels of vitamin C and other antioxidants are more likely to suffer from retinal damage and AMD from HEV radiation.


A cataract is a clouding of the eye’s natural lens, the part of the eye that focuses on the light we see. Apart from age-related cataracts that develop slowly, there are other causes for an earlier onset in younger people. Research shows that UV light may be a factor in the development of cataracts, reinforcing the significance of protective sunglasses when exposed to the sun’s rays.

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What are the Best Eye Protection Options?

Look for glasses with polarized lenses that reduce glare and provide clearer vision. Polarized lenses can be helpful when driving or spending time on the water. Harmful UV rays can be reflected off the water surface when you're doing water sports or skiing, leading to damage to the cornea.

Glasses such as Transitions® Lenses, darken in bright light and lighten in dim light. This can be helpful if you’re going from indoors to outdoors frequently.

For those requiring prescription glasses, prescription sunglasses are available with polarized and UV-protective lenses.

If you’re involved in outdoor activities, such as skiing, snowboarding, or water sports, consider wearing specialized lenses designed for those activities. For example, some ski goggles have lenses that enhance contrast and provide better visibility in low-light conditions.

How We Can Help

At Martin Street Optometry, we offer a range of high-quality sunglasses and specialized lenses that provide maximum eye protection. Invest in your eye health today by getting a pair of glasses that provide the protection your eyes deserve.