Cyclist facts: The dangers of UV light to your eyes

Most of us are aware of the need for skin protection when cycling outdoors, but do you know that UV rays affect your eyes as well? 

We spoke to Dr Loh Boon Kwang, Medical Director of My Eye Specialist and Retina Surgeon for some advice on how to care for your eyes when cycling outdoors.


1. What is UV light and how does it affect our eyes?

Ultraviolet (UV) light is a type of electromagnetic radiation from the sun, and is responsible for sun tans and sunburns. The external part of your eyes are exposed to UV light.

The cornea (at the front part of the eyeball) and the nature al lens (inside the eyeball) absorb most of the UV light before it reaches the retina, the innermost layer of tissue within the eyeball. 




In the short term, it does not affect the eye other than causing sunburn of the eyelids if the exposure is intense.


2. Is exercising/ being outdoors good for eye health?

Exercise is good for eye health as it helps in blood circulation to the body and eyes. Exercise prevents chronic diseases like diabetes and hypertension which are associated with eye diseases such as cataracts and retina diseases.

Being outdoor is beneficial to the eyes especially in growing children as the outdoor light helps to control the short-sightedness.


3. What are the risks of long-term sun exposure to eye without proper protection?

UV light exposure is associated with degenerative changes of the external parts of adult eyes such as pterygium (abnormal growth on the external skin of the eye), cornea changes, retina degeneration, cataracts (cloudiness of natural lens), ageing and cancer of the skin of the eyelids. 


4.  Is protection needed even when the sun is not out at noon time? e.g. early morning/ cloudy day. 

Protection is still preferable even when the sun is not at noon time as there will be UV exposure even in early morning.



Maximal UV light is seen between 10am and 2pm. Of course if the sky is very cloudy, protection again UV light will not be needed.


5. What can cyclists do to protect their eyes when out riding in the sun?

Cyclists should avoid injury to the eyes by wearing glasses with stronger frame or sports glasses which have stronger frames to protect the eyes against injury in case they have any accident.



Preferably the lens and frame should wrap around the contours of the eye sockets and face to offer maximal protection. Tinted lens help to protect the eyes from eye strain due to glare or prolonged UV light exposure.  




Esther Koh
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