We are all much better now at using sunscreen to protect ourselves from the damage that can happen through UV rays. Can the same be said about protecting our eyes?
The harmful effects of ultra-violet radiation on the eyes has now been well documented, however, what many do not appreciate is how important it is to protect children’s eyes. Children spend more time playing outside, their pupils are larger allowing for more light (including non-visible light) to enter the eyes. Research has also shown that a significant amount of our total lifetime UV exposure now happens by the age of 18 and we know that the damage adds up over time.
So how can we protect our eyes?
UV protection -definitely cool
There’s obvious steps which can be taken, common with general sun protection, like wearing a wide brimmed hat. We can not, however, put sun cream in our eyes, so how do we ensure that they are fully protected?
The most obvious choice would be to use sunglasses, as long as they have UV protection. You can look for certain marks like UVX or UV400 to ensure that the sunglasses will do the job properly. Without proper UV protection, sunglasses could actually make sun damage worse as the pupils will dilate behind the dark lenses allowing more UV to enter they eye than without.
Sunglasses should be well fitting and thankfully current trends of either wrapped style or over-sized sunglasses definitely help to max out the protection and reduce peripheral light from entering the eyes.
It may not be obvious that your prescription glasses can actually help to reduce the amount of UV light getting to the eyes. Higher index plastic lens materials have inherent in-built UV protection as part of their optical characteristics and even standard plastic (1.5 index) can have a UV blocking treatment applied to it.
With added benefits of being robust and durable, it is easily argued that 1.6 index plastic should now be our standard lens material of choice. It is thinner and lighter than standard plastic, safer for the eyes with the UV protection and particularly beneficial in children’s glasses as it is incredibly tough.
While prescription glasses wouldn’t replace good sunglasses for overall sun protection, it is worthwhile taking the time to discuss your requirements with your optician to make sure that you are making the best choice overall.
We are increasingly finding contact lenses coming with built in UV protection and it is a feature of the lenses manufactured by Acuvue that all of their lenses have a UV blocker. The big advantage of contact lenses in UV protection is in reducing peripheral light which gets in to the eye from oblique angles, light coming from the sides, above or below. This Peripheral Light Factor can cause real problems for glasses and sunglasses as the light can “creep” around the edges of the glasses or be reflected from the skin and then from the back surface of the lens.
Acuvue lenses with UV protection as standard
While contact lenses will not protect the whole eye, as they only cover the cornea in the center, they will add a level of protection which is a great supplement to good quality sunglasses. They will also allow you to choose from non-prescription sunglasses, perhaps opening up options in style, selection and having multiple pairs to suit your mood or the environment.
Whatever you are doing, whatever time of year, when you are going outside make sure that you have the best protection available and if you are unsure of what works for you, speak to your optician or optometrist for the best advice.