In ancient Egypt, pharaohs and commoners of all genders would line their eyes with kohl, creating the iconic look featured in nearly every ancient Egyptian artwork. This popular practice was done for many reasons—medicinal, religious, style—but protection from the glaring sun was high on this list. Meanwhile, in the prehistoric Arctic circle, Inuit people wore snow goggles to prevent snow blindness. Snow goggles were made of wood or bone and had one or two narrow slits for seeing out of and were worn tight to the face.
Although many modern civilizations have kept eyeliner, sunglasses were adopted as another method of eye protection in China around the 12th century.
Long story short: eye protection has always been an important issue. Various methods have been used and adopted since prehistoric times because excessive exposure to UV rays can cause:
- eye growths
- damage to the retina
- damage to the skin around your eyes
How UV rays can harm the retina
Since the sun doesn’t usually leave a blemish—like a sunburn or wrinkles—on our eyes when they’re damaged, we might not even realize that UV rays are harming them. While we can protect our skin with sunscreen, our eyes are sometimes left without protection from the exact same source.
Tinted and polarized sunglasses protect our vision from the glare of water, ice, snow, and sand and also improve our vision while outdoors, but only sunglasses that provide UV400 protection actually block out those harmful rays.
What is Photokeratitis?
Think of it as a painful sunburn on your eye. Photokeratitis is caused by UV rays from natural sources (the sun or the sun’s reflection off sand, water, ice, or snow) or unnatural sources (like a tanning bed). It can also be caused by looking directly at a solar eclipse. In addition to being painful, it can also cause headaches, blurred vision, a gritty feeling, eyelid spasms, redness, and swelling.
What is an eye growth?
The white of the eyeball is called the sclera. Pinguecula and Pterygium are two types of eye growths that can develop on the sclera and both can be caused by too much sun hitting the eyes. In fact, Pterygium is also known as “surfer’s eye.” Both are non-cancerous bumps that can cause discomfort, cloudiness in the eye and a range of other eye issues.
How does the sun cause cataracts?
On a cool morning, a window might have a layer of fog over it, obstructing your view of the outside world. That’s a bit like what trying to see while having a cataract is like. Cataracts cause vision to be blurry and dark, gradually may affect activities like reading or driving and can cause light sensitivity, double vision and more. In most cases, cataracts are caused by the ageing process or other medical issues like diabetes, but excessive exposure to sunlight can speed up the development of cataracts.
How UV rays can harm the skin around the eyes
The skin around your eyes, including the skin of your eyelids, is very delicate and susceptible to damage caused by UV rays. UV ray-blocking sunglasses can protect not only your eyes but also the skin around them.
For maximum eye protection from the sun, make sure your next pair of sunglasses comes with UV ray protection. Sunglasses with a wider temple or wraparound-style sunglasses provide even more protection from the sun’s harmful rays.