The eyes have it: Protect yours from radiation exposure

June 1, 2018
Radiation Protection Glasses

Occupational exposure to radiation has been proven to increase the risk of developing cataracts. In the past, the only way to protect the eyes during imaging procedures was to wear heavy, clunky leaded glasses.

Well, those days are gone. Today’s options for protective radiation eyewear from AliMed include fashionable designer frames in a variety of lightweight, durable styles from NIKE®, Oakley®, and Rudy Project, with many available in prescription lenses.

All of our protective eyewear follows the ALARA protocol—As Low As Reasonably Achievable—to reduce the amount of radiation to which you are exposed and give you as much protection as possible from scatter radiation. All front lenses meet the recommended 0.75 mm Pb-equivalent protection, and peripheral lenses, which offer additional side protection for certain styles, are 0.5 mm Pb-equivalent.

Eye protection is critical

Protecting your eyes is more important than ever. Low doses of radiation can cause permanent damage to the lens, leading to vision loss and cataracts. Higher doses can damage the iris, conjunctiva, sclera, and the retina’s blood vessels. Regular exposure to X-rays puts you at risk for not only early cataracts, but also retinal damage, tumor growth, glaucoma, and tear duct damage, which can result in dry eyes and make them more susceptible to infection.1,2

More than 22 million Americans have cataracts, the leading cause of vision loss in the U.S. This clouding of the lens eventually causes reduced vision and can be corrected only through surgery to remove the lens and replace it with an artificial one. And while a cataract may not develop until long after the initial radiation exposure, it can be traced back to that original exposure.3

While the Nuclear Regulatory Committee has established exposure limits based on a level at which apparent injury from ionizing radiation during a normal lifetime is unlikely, recent studies have found that cataracts can occur at much lower doses and that there may be no dose threshold.4

Medical personnel should know their occupational radiation dose—some may even be required to wear a monitoring device to measure the dose to the whole body and to an unshielded location closer to the eye.3

Currently there are no standardized recommendations for routine screening of patients who have an occupational risk for radiation exposure. But experts recommend annual cataract screenings during routine eye exams. Protection is critical—cataracts are irreversible.

Why Lead?

Leaded glasses attenuate radiation that passes through the lenses, preventing much of the harmful rays from reaching your eyes and reducing the effects of X-rays by blocking or bouncing particles.2,3

A 2010 study found the "use of leaded glasses alone reduced the lens dose rate by a factor of five to 10."5 Another study concluded that “interventional radiologists should purchase comfortable, protective eyewear and use it regularly."6

Experts agree: any time you wear lead protection for other parts of your body, you should wear leaded glasses. So, don’t sacrifice safety for style. Now you can have both.


  4. Radiation Risk to the Fluoroscopy Operator and staff, AJR:207, Oct. 2016,
  5. Comparing Strategies for Operator Eye Protection in The Interventional Radiography Suite, 2010,
  6. Potential Radiation-Related Effects on Radiologists, AJR:208, March 2017,

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