Too often a blindspot for sun protection: our precious eyes

Photo by chen zo on Unsplash

As reported yesterday in the Brisbane Times, research has revealed that the one place we're not putting sunscreen is on and around our eyelids.

A British study found that many people weren't applying sunscreen to their eye area when they covered the rest of their face, and another more recent study by the same researchers looked at those applying SPF moisturiser, only to find the results were even worse.

The Cancer Council Australia said it wasn’t surprised by the findings, as many people didn’t put any form of sunscreen directly on their eye area. This is a concern for many reasons, and would particularly impact those who swim alot.

Heather Walker, Chair of the Council’s National Skin Cancer Committee, said that was why they recommended multiple forms of sun protection.
While this research is out of the UK, it's of concern to Australia, which unfortunately has the highest rate of melanoma in the world.
Optometry Australia, which continually aims to raise awareness of the importance of UV protection for our eyes, is also concerned as to the results of the study, indicating there is still some work to be done in getting people to take the dangers of UV exposure more seriously.
And, just because we're now in autumn, doesn't mean the dangers are any less. The sun is lower on the horizon in autumn, winter and spring so we get more damaging UV directly entering the eye.
The team at Good vision for life recommends all day, year round UV protection to protect from the following conditions:


It is estimated that around 20% of cataracts are caused or made worse by UV exposure. Cataract is where the normally clear lens inside the eye becomes cloudy, causing blurred vision or blindness if not removed. Surgical extraction of cataracts costs Australia $320million each year.


Light which enters the side of the eye closest to the ears can be internally reflected (like fibre optic cabling) and come to a focal point on the side of the eye closest to the nose. This can cause ptergyium, which is a wing of fleshy tissue which grows over the front surface of the eye.

These can become very irritated and as they grow over the central area of the eye they can start to affect our vision. These are also referred to as surfer’s eye as they are very common in this group and in occupations where people spend a lot of time outside.

To solve this problem Optometry Australia recommends close fitting or wraparound styles, or for those bound to fashion first there are numerous sunglass frames which have a thicker arm which achieves great side protection.

Macular Degeneration

Short wavelength radiation and blue light in bright sunshine can cause damage to sensor layer at the back of the eye (the retina), along with the part of this layer responsible for central vision (the macula).


Long term UV exposure can be associated with cancers affecting the eyes and surrounding lids. The Cancer Council advises that in 2013 in QLD alone 81 people were diagnosed with eye cancer and 21 died from the disease.

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