Radiation Effects on the Eye: The Importance of Wearing Lead Glasses

It is critically important to consider radiation effects on the eye when working in a fluoroscopic environment. As radiation doses are cumulative, repeated exposure to x-rays or other radiation increases the risk of tissue damage.

Although radiology is used to detect and cure diseases, performing diagnostic tests or administering therapeutic radiation doesn’t mean that there is no damage being done. While patients are generally exposed to man-made radiation only a few times in their lifetime, usually for a diagnostic procedure, radiologic professionals have a higher risk of tissue damage because of frequent exposure to low-dose radiation (LDR) emitted during flurorscopy.

The initial effects of exposure to radiation can be subtle and invisible, and so the damage being done goes undetected at first. The eyes are very delicate organs and are easily damaged by scatter radiation. Everyone who works with x-rays or other forms of ionizing radiation should be equipped with special lead glasses.

Symptoms of Possible Eye Problems

Are you wondering, “Can radiation cause eye problems?” Most definitely! Be aware of any indications that your eyes might be affected if you work with any form of scatter radiation. You’re at increased risk for Cataracts, cancerous lesions or tumors, retinal radiopathy, glaucoma, dry eyes, and even blindness.

If you answer “yes” to any of the following 10 questions, you may have a problem with your vision and should get it checked out right away:

    1. Is your vision blurred, distorted, cloudy or dim?
    2. Is it hard to see at night or in low light levels?
    3. Do you see “halos” around lights?
    4. Are you increasingly sensitive to light or glare?
    5. Do colors seem faded or yellowed?
    6. Do you have double vision?
    7. Do you see floating specks or cobwebs?
    8. Is your peripheral vision reduced?
    9. Do you have headaches or eye pain and redness?
    10. Do your eyes sting or feel scratchy or gritty?

Importance of Wearing Lead Glasses

When it comes to protecting yourself from radiation effects on the eyes, always practice the ALARA Principle. (As Low As Reasonably Achievable) and its three important rules, namely Time, Distance, and Shielding. Wearing your protective eyewear is a key part of the Shielding Rule.

Leaded glasses attenuate scatter radiation so that it doesn’t reach your eyes. Lead (Pb) is a heavy, dense metal that shields against the harmful effects of radiation. Your leaded eyewear lenses must have a minimum of 0.75 mm Pb. If your eyewear also has peripheral or side protection, this should have a minimum of 0.5 mm Pb.

In the human body, the more specialized the cell type, the greater the effect of radiation and the damage it causes. The eye is a highly specialized organ, and mostly can’t be repaired by new cell production, or remove cells that are damaged. Major structures to consider are the lens and the retina.

  • The lens has cells packed with transparent proteins. Each new radiation dose disintegrates these proteins into cloudy debris which accumulates. This eventually blocks light and creates cataracts which can only be treated with surgery. Cataracts are the most common condition caused by neglecting to wear lead glasses.
  • The retina is a thin layer of tissue containing light-sensitive photoreceptor cells. Not wearing your lead glasses may result in radiation retinopathy. The retina suffers vascular problems or hemorrhages, which can be sudden and severe. Structural damage is usually irreversible and may lead to permanent blindness.

Protect Your Eyes from Radiation Exposure

Lead goggles used to be bulky, uncomfortable, and inconvenient to wear. With modern technological advancements, you now have several choices in leaded eyewear. If you normally wear glasses, your radiation glasses can be made specifically for your prescription.

Here are some tips for choosing your eyewear:

  • Consider the level of protection, comfort, and fit.
  • Your lead glasses should stay in place and not slide down your nose when you look down.
  • Check for under-eye or nose pressure. If you have discomfort, the eyewear may not fit properly.  Many frames offer adjustable nose pieces.
  • Choose adjustable frames that can be tightened as required over time.
  • Your eyewear should have cleaning instructions and a warranty that covers defects.

Barrier Technologies Leaded Eyewear offers uncompromising comfort, fit, form and function. Our stylish and lightweight frames allow everyone to find their perfect pair.

FAQs: Radiation Effects on the Eye and the Importance of Lead Glasses

Q: Why is it important to protect your eyes?

A: Exposing your eyes to even low dose radiation (LDR) can harm vision and lead to conditions such as lesions, tumors, cataracts, retinal radiopathy, glaucoma, dry eyes, and even blindness.

Q: Are radiation glasses necessary?

A: Leaded eyewear is absolutely necessary to reduce the risk of workplace radiation. Even LDR has the potential to damage your eyes as they are highly specialized, delicate, and sensitive organs.

Q: How effective are lead glasses?

A: Leaded eyewear should reduce radiation effects on the eye by 90–100% of the dose. It has been found that the wraparound styles and those with leaded sides offer the greatest protection.

Q: Do I need to wear radiation protective glasses?

A: If your work requires you to wear any other form of radiation protection PPE, such as a lead apron or thyroid shield, then you should wear leaded glasses too.

Q: How long does radiation affect the eye?

A: Acute radiation effects on the eye depend on the dose received and may subside within weeks. However, chronic, long-term effects are more insidious and cause various syndromes or diseases long after the initial exposure. Remember, radiation is cumulative.


Barrier Technologies’ expansive leaded eyewear catalog contains types and styles to suit every radiologic worker, in every workplace situation where ionizing radiation is employed. We manufacture the strongest, most durable, and good-looking radiation safety glasses in the industry!

Wearing our leaded glasses will protect your eyes from 100% of the damaging effects of scatter radiation. You can concentrate on taking care of your patients, secure in the knowledge that our superior leaded glasses are taking care of your eyes. Don’t risk the health of your eyes — call us today for the most technologically advanced radiation protective eyewear.