What are lead glasses? Why and when do I need to wear them?

Lead Glasses for medical imaging procedures

Lead glasses provide radiation protection for your eyes. It is highly recommended to wear lead glasses during medical imaging procedures to avoid serious health risks.

Lead glasses have different names in the medical industry.

They can also be called:

  • X-Ray glasses
  • Radiation glasses
  • Leaded eyewear
  • X-ray eyewear
  • Radiation eyewear
  • Radiation safety glasses/ eyewear
  • Radiation protection glasses/ eyewear

    Lead Glasses come in different styles to suit different face shapes and requirements:

    There are three kinds of lead glasses that provide different levels of protection.

    Wraparound Lead Glasses Semi-Wraparound Lead Glasses Flat Lead Glasses
    This type offers ‘wraparound’ protection at the front and around the side of the eye. Depending on the curve of these frames, they do usually not require additional side shield protection. This kind of frame provides front protection and some side protection (‘semi-wraparound’). It is usually recommended to add leaded side shields for additional lateral protection. This frame is ideal for many prescription types and scripts. However, they only provide front protection. If you choose a flat leaded glasses frame, ensure they feature side shields where leaded side shields can be attached to offer wraparound protection for your eyes.
    Provides limited choices for prescription leaded lenses due to the wraparound curve. Suitable for most prescription leaded lenses Ideal for all prescription leaded lenses. 
    wraparound lead glasses blackstar top view semi wraparound lead glasses flat lead glasses twister top view


      Why and where do I need to wear lead glasses?

      Like lead aprons, lead glasses are worn in hospitals and other medical facilities to protect medical staff and patients from radiation/ x-rays. Lead glasses act as radiation protection shields for your eyes during medical and diagnostic imaging procedures, such as fluoroscopy, computed tomography and radiography. 

      Lead glasses are worn in operating theatres, catheter labs, radiology, medical imaging, dental and veterinary facilities.

      Serious Health Risks

      Like lead aprons, lead glasses should be worn during medical imaging procedures to avoid serious health risks.

      One of the increased health dangers is a cataract, which usually results from long-term exposure to low-dose radiation and can even lead to blindness.

      The ICRP - International Commission on Radiological Protection – suggests an occupational limit for radiation exposure to eyes of 150 mSv/year. However, evidence has demonstrated that the limit is too high. The ICRP1 now recommends an equivalent annual dose limit for the lens of the eye of 20 mSv, averaged over defined periods of five years, with no single year exceeding 50 mSv.

      Medical staff still seems to underestimate the health risks to their eyes. According to the study “Historical review of occupational exposures and cancer risks in medical radiation workers”, 2 50% of interventional cardiologists develop cataracts. The risk of cataracts rises as the number of exposure rises, e.g. during interventional radiology procedures, which are:

      • X-rays
      • Fluoroscopy
      • Computed Tomography (CT) and CT fluoroscopy
      • Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)

      Every hospital or medical institution follows different policies or guidelines, which can be very confusing. ARPANSA, the Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency, published several recommendations on improving Eye Safety in Image Guided Interventional Procedures (IGIP). Occupation Health & Safety departments must take appropriate measures to ensure that radiation exposure is limited by applying the IGIP recommendations.


      In summary, whenever you are required to put on a lead apron to protect yourself against radiation scatter, you must wear lead glasses to protect your eyes.


      1. ICRP ref 4825-3093-1464 Statement on Tissue Reactions

      2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21128805?dopt=Abstract