How to protect your eyes from UV damage

04 April

UV Matters – Protecting your eyes whether the sun shines or not 

Ultraviolet (UV) radiation is always there, at all times of the year and even when the skies are cloudy and grey. Although you can’t see UV rays, the damage caused by them has been linked to a number of eye concerns, including cataracts and macular degeneration.

It might surprise you to know that 40% of UV exposure happens when you aren’t in full sunlight and the rays are at their strongest between 8am and 10am, and 2pm and 4pm – not, as you might imagine, at the height of the day. 

48% of word blindness is caused by cataracts and The WHO has estimated that up to 20% of cataracts may be caused by overexposure to UV radiation, so it’s really important to look after your vision as early as possible in life. 

Although everyone is at risk of UV damage, the following groups should be more aware:

  • People with certain retina disorders
  • People who spend long hours outdoors or in the sun
  • People who have had cataracts surgery
  • People who are on certain medications, such as photosensitizing drugs (drugs that make your skin more sensitive to light) as they can also make your eyes more sensitive to light. People with light-coloured eyes - If you have blue, grey or green eyes the light irises may increase the risk of rare eye conditions, such as melanoma of the iris or uveal melanoma.

Here are some great ways to protect your vision:

Coloured lenses don’t matter
Dark sunglasses don’t mean your eyes are better protected, nor do coloured lenses such as brown, grey or pink have any impact on UV protection. In fact, darker lenses without UV protection can actually do more harm than good. 

Make sure your clear lenses and contacts are protected too
Normal spectacle lenses and contact lenses are not guaranteed to be UV protected, at Bayfields we stock ZEISS lenses and CooperVision clariti® 1 day contact lenses both of which come with 100% UV protection, meaning your eyes will be protected 24/7, even when you’re not wearing sunglasses. 
Keep it 100%
If you’re not a contact lens or spectacle wearer then investing in a quality pair of sunglasses is essential, not all sunglasses offer 100% UV protection so it’s important to look out for the sticker before you purchase. 

Sunglasses that don’t have UV protection can actually do more harm than good and it’s important to note that Polarised lenses do not protect eyes from UV damage, instead they simply reduce the glare caused by reflections.
No matter what brand of sunglasses or style you choose, the most important factor should be making sure the UV protection is labelled with either ‘UV400’ or ‘100% UV protection’ – the price of the sunglasses does not impact this. 

If you’d like to have your sunglasses UV tested then we’ll gladly do this for free within any of our practices. 
Go big
When choosing sunglasses, consider opting for larger frames as the more coverage you have from your sunglasses, the less sun damage is inflicted on the eyes. Wraparound-style glasses can also help cut down on UV entering the eye from the side.

Hats on
Whilst having 100% UV lenses covering your eyes either as glasses, sunglasses or contact lenses is the best way to protect your eyes, wearing a wide-brimmed hat can also help to shade your eyes and keep out as many harmful UV rays as possible.

Don’t be fooled by the cold or clouds
If you’re going to be at higher altitudes for example when hiking or skiing where the weather is cooler your eyes still need protecting, hot weather doesn’t equal more harmful. UV rays at higher altitudes and have been found to contribute to more long-term issues such as cataracts and macular degeneration. The term ‘Snow Blindness’ may be well known amongst winter sports enthusiasts and is caused by a combination of blinding light and intense UV rays being reflected off of snow and ice which is more extreme at high elevation.

To help you be UV ready we have two exclusive offers throughout April and May so with every purchase of ZEISS lenses or a subscription of CooperVision clariti® 1 day contact lenses. Click here for more information and if you’d like to discuss your UV options, pop in and see one of our team at your local Bayfields practice.