More than half of adults fail to protect their eyes from UV despite link to premature eye disease

AOP advises public to protect their eyes by wearing CE marked sunglasses in all seasons

  • Experts warn of link between sun damage and premature eye disease - yet only 46% of adults in a public poll own sunglasses with UV protection
  • Optometrists see as many as 20 people a month with conditions linked to UV exposure
  • Two fifths (40%) are unaware that too much UV exposure contributes to sight threatening conditions such as cataract, age-related macular degeneration and eye cancers
  • A third of parents (31%) admit they never safeguard their children’s eyes with sunglasses
  • Association of Optometrists advise protect your eyes as you protect your skin – wear CE marked sunglasses in all seasons

Today, experts from the Association of Optometrists are advising the public to protect their eyes from developing sight threatening conditions early with one simple tip – wear CE marked sunglasses in all seasons.

Almost a quarter of optometrists, who examine your vision and the health of your eyes, prescribing glasses or contact lenses where needed, see up to nine patients every month with an eye disease linked to UV exposure – with 15% seeing more than 20 in the same period.

While most people know that the sun causes skin damage, few realise it is just as damaging to their eyes – increasing the chances of developing conditions such as premature cataract and age-related macular degeneration, and growths on the eye.

Using sunglasses with UV protection significantly reduces the risks. Yet in a public poll only 46% claimed they owned a pair and of those who did, 24% admitted they only sometimes checked UV protection when choosing a pair to buy. Although, over 55s are more health conscious – with three quarters always checking the UV filter before purchasing.

Despite an estimated 80% of UV damage happening before the age of 18  only a quarter of parents safeguard their children’s eyes by always putting sunglasses with UV protection on them – with a third admitting they rarely or never do.

Optometrist and AOP spokesperson Ceri Smith-Jaynes said: “Optometrists often see eye disease related to UV damage, but patients are often surprised to hear about this. Protecting your eyes is easy and simple – wear a good quality and well-fitting pair of sunglasses that has the CE mark, filtering out UVA and UVB rays.”

Ms Smith-Jaynes also warns that low quality tinted lenses can do more damage: “Many people don’t realise that sunglasses without a UV filter can actually be more harmful. This is because the tint makes your pupils dilate, so your eyes are taking in more light but they are unprotected. It’s also important to remember that UV can be damaging on dull days so it’s good to get in the habit of wearing sunglasses, especially if you’re outside for long periods of time.”

The conditions optometrists report seeing most are growths over the white of your eye called pinguecula and pterygium, age-related macular degeneration which affects central vision and premature cataracts, where the lens becomes cloudy. Other less common conditions include cancer of the skin around the eye and eyelids and photokeratitis (corneal sunburn).

Ms Smith-Jaynes added: “Whether you have concerns about your vision or not, it’s important to visit your optometrist regularly to have a full eye health check so conditions are identified and treated early.”

The AOP is launching its SPF for your eyes campaign on Tuesday 27 July,

Top tips for protecting your eyes against UV damage

  1. Wear sunglasses which carry the CE quality mark, even if you are using contact lenses with a UV filter, because this will help protect the skin around your eyes, as well as the eye itself. Make sure children wear sunglasses too; their pupils are bigger than adults’, making the risk of sun damage much higher
  2. Choose sunglasses that sit closer to the eye and wrap-around, blocking out more light
  3. Check that your prescription lenses include a UV filter, for everyday protection
  4. Wear a wide-brimmed sun hat for more protection
  5. Never look at the sun directly – even if it’s just for a few seconds

For more information, please contact Serena Box, PR and Media Manager, at the Association of Optometrists, [email protected] or telephone 020 7549 2040.

Notes to Editors

You can download hi-res images related to the campaign via Dropbox.

Association of Optometrists

The Association of Optometrists (AOP) is the leading representative membership organisation for optometrists in the UK. We support over 82% of practising optometrists, to fulfil their professional roles to protect the nation’s eye health. For more information, visit

  1. The research was carried out by Opinium Research which conducted an online survey among 2000 respondents across the UK. The research was conducted between 6 – 9 July 2021
  2. AOP Voice of Optometry survey conducted with 1207 practising UK optometrists between May – June 2021
  3. World Health Organisation 
  4. The Vision Council