Last updated: 09:00 PM ET, Tue April 12 2016

Opinion Home | Far-Sighted Field Notes

  • Rosalind Cummings-Yeates | April 12, 2016 9:00 PM ET

    Travelers: Fend Off UV Eye Damage With These Simple Tips

    Travelers: Fend Off UV Eye Damage With These Simple Tips

    Photo courtesy of Thinkstock

    Spring has arrived and for many travelers that means heading to sun-drenched destinations. Most people know about protecting your skin from too much sun exposure, but few consider that eyes, specifically, can suffer from solar damage.

    I discovered this fact at a webinar organized by The Vision Council. It turns out that wearing shades constantly (even inside when the sun beams from windows) might be a smart thing after all.

    READ MORE: My Top 4 Travel Screwups (And What I Learned from Them)

    I love the sun and frequently travel to tropical destinations. I always protect my skin with sunscreen and usually a wide-brimmed hat but always, always, sunglasses. I wear sunglasses year round and wherever I travel because my eyes are sensitive to light. It never occurred to me that I was actually protecting my eyes from damaging UV rays until I learned about it at The Vision Council. It turns out that your eyes can get sunburned just as easily as your skin and wrinkles around the eyes, cataracts and cancer of the eye are all connected to UV eye exposure.

    Since I specialize in traveling to islands and sunny locales, I thought it would make sense to learn important UV blocking tips for the eyes. According to The Vision Council's UV Report:

    • Although UV protective sunglasses are the best defense against UV-related eye damage, only 40 percent of adults in the U.S. wear sunglasses outside.

    • UV damage is cumulative, which means that daily UV exposure adds up over time, possibly leading to future vision impairment and medical issues.

    • UV rays can penetrate the Earth's atmosphere at any time or place but certain locations produce increased risk. San Juan, Puerto Rico, Honolulu, Hawaii and Miami, Florida top the list for the highest UV concentration.

    • It's best to avoid direct UV radiation but reflected UV light is just as damaging. Water reflects up to 100 percent of UV rays, snow up to 85 percent, and dry sand and concrete up to 25 percent.

    So what to do when traveling to sunny or UV-reflecting locations?

    • Purchase UV-protected sunglasses from reputable outlets. This means that vendors along the beach, online auction sites, vintage stores and that guy selling shades on the sidewalk are out. I'm a huge fan of scoring bargains but it turns out that cheap sunglasses offer little value for eye health. Shop eye wear shops, department stores and brands that offer UVA and UVB protection labels.

    • Check the label. Sometimes UVA and UVB  protection stickers can be torn off or switched around. Your optometrist actually has a machine to check just how much UV protection your sunglasses provide.

    • A protective carrying case is key. Good quality sunglasses come with cases to protect against scratches and breaks.

    READ MORE: Free Sunscreen Stations Going Up in Miami Beach

    • Slather sunscreen on exposed skin, including around eyes and areas not covered by your sunglasses.

    • Bring a backup pair of sunglasses in your luggage. I’ve had sunglasses crack in my carryon, fall out of my tote and get scratched up in the sand. Carry an extra pair so you won’t have to hunt for another pair in the middle of your travels.


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Rosalind Cummings-Yeates Far-Sighted Field Notes

Rosalind Cummings-Yeates Rosalind Cummings-Yeates is a journalist, author and blogger who specializes in travel and culture topics. She loves guiding readers through the richness of various cultures and discovering the essence of a destination. Her travel and culture blog, Farsighted Fly Girl, offers travel insights through the music, food, art and history of various countries and cultures. Join her on the journey at www.Rosalindcummingsyeates.
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