AN INCREASING number of young south-west adults and teenagers are undergoing surgery to stop blindness due to sun damage.
Alarming data also reveals many are unaware of ultraviolet (UV) danger times when it comes to eye health.
Inala optometrist Huy Ho said a lack of education was leading to patients as young as 13 being operated on to remove diseases such as pterygia - a growth over the white part of the eye.
"I've seen a large increase in the number of patients with eye diseases caused by sun damage," Dr Ho said.
"It is usually present in young adults between the ages of 20 and 30 but can occur at any age.
"I have seen it develop in a 13-year-old."
Dr Ho, who has practised optometry for the past 10 years, said the sun's UV rays were most dangerous between 10am and 2pm.
"People should make sure they are protected between these times," he said.
With damage being cumulative, Dr Ho said people should start looking after their eyes at a young age.
"As soon as a child is walking, they should have their eyes protected by either wearing a hat or sunglasses," he said.
"Eating lots of green vegetables and carrots also gives eyes the vitamins they need and regular eye checks are important."
However about 60% of Australians believe it is only the midday sun that poses the greatest UV threat to their eyes, according to an Optometrists Association of Australia survey.
Optometrists Association of Australia spokesman Andrew Hogan said UV eye protection should be used not only at noon but at all times of day.
"The high UV exposure to the eyes before and after midday is due to the angle of the sun in relation to the eye," he said.
"People must protect their eyes all day and all year round, as UV exposure can peak at times when ordinarily we may not be wearing UV protective lenses and at times when we believe we are not exposed, such as when the UV is coming from behind us.
"It is not only the direct sun on a fine, clear cloudless day in summer that can cause damage.
"Research has shown that a greater proportion of UV rays can reach the eye from scattered sunlight from clouds and light reflected from the ground and off water.
"Australia's high levels of UV rays can cause long-term and permanent harm to the health of your eyes, as well as your skin, and can contribute to a range of eye conditions, including macular degeneration - one of the leading causes of blindness in Australia."