Everyone of any age and any degree of skin pigmentation is susceptible to UV damage. Children are particularly susceptible to UV damage. Some studies show that people with certain eye diseases such as retinal dystrophy may be at greater risk for UV-related sun damage.

Also people with diseased maculas, such as macular degeneration, may be more sensitive to ultraviolet radiation. As a precaution, they should wear sunglasses whenever they go outside.

Cataract surgery
More than two million Americans have cataract surgery each year. During this procedure, the eye's lens is removed, leaving the eye more vulnerable to UV light. The natural lens is usually replaced by an intraocular lens (IOL). Older intraocular lenses absorb much less UV light than ordinary glass or plastic eyeglass lenses. Manufacturers of IOLs now make most of their products UV-absorbent.  

Intraocular lens.
Intraocular lens.

If you have had cataract surgery and your IOL is not the newer UV-absorbent type, be sure to wear UV-blocking sunglasses and a hat for added protection. However, even if you have a new IOL, wearing sunglasses and a hat gives an extra measure of protection.

Photosensitizing drugs
Photosensitizing drugs — drugs that make your skin more sensitive to light — can make your eyes more sensitive to light as well. You should discuss precautions with your ophthalmologist if you are taking any of the following drugs and wear UV-absorbent sunglasses and a hat whenever you go outside for as long as you take them: 

  • Psoralens (used in treating psoriasis)
  • Tetracycline
  • Doxycycline
  • Allopurinol
  • Phenothiazine

If you have recently had photodynamic therapy for age-related macular degeneration (AMD), you must also be careful to avoid sunlight.

Next Page: Recommended Types of Sunglasses

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