Protecting Your Eyes From the Sun

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Protecting your eyes from ultraviolet radiation is just as important as putting on sunscreen to protect your skin. Many age-related eye diseases, such as cataracts and macular degeneration, may be partially caused by UV exposure throughout your life, so protecting your eyes today may save your vision later in life.

How Does UV Harm the Eyes?

We can’t see ultraviolet light, but it is absorbed by the tissue of the eye and can cause serious eye damage. Conditions such as cataracts, macular degeneration, photokeratitis (sunburn of the cornea), pingueculae (small yellowish bumps on the white of the eye) and pterygium (opaque growth over the surface of the cornea), are directly related to UV exposure. The more UV exposure you have during your life, the more likely you are to develop one of these damaging conditions.

Options for UV Protection

There are many options to protect your eyes from UV light.  If you want protection from UV rays as well as comfort from glare and brightness, tinted glasses work well and tinted polarized lenses are best.  Options include permanently tinted sunglasses (prescription or non-prescription) or photochromic lenses, which get darker with increased UV intensity but offer UV protection even when clear.  You can also use clip-on sunglass lenses over your regular glasses, or large sunglasses that fit over your own glasses and block UV light, even from the sides.  Tinted lenses do not necessarily block UV light, so it is important to ensure your lenses block 100 per cent UVA and UVB.  Lenses do not have to be dark to block UV rays, so if you want protection, but not the darkening effect of sunglasses, you can choose clear UV blocking lenses.  You can even get contact lenses with UV protection.

If you dislike wearing sunglasses, it may be because your lenses are too dark or are not good optical quality. Poor quality lenses may cause distortions and give a general feeling of discomfort. Grey tints are “colour neutral” and will not affect your colour perception, but some people prefer the “warm” feeling of brown tints.

Factors in UV Exposure

Light skin, eye pigmentation and certain medications, such as oral contraceptives and some antibiotics, can affect how susceptible you are to UV light.  Infants and young children are especially vulnerable to the damage from UV radiation, and should wear sunglasses and a hat.  UV exposure is greater during the mid-day and is also greater near the equator and at high altitudes. UV is reflected from water and snow, increasing your exposure, so you should wear protective lenses around them, such as when skiing or doing water sports.

Your BC Doctor of Optometry can make specific recommendations to ensure your eyes are well-protected from the harmful effects of UV radiation.

BC Doctors of Optometry provide a full range of vision and eye health care and are your first stop for comprehensive, doctor-delivered care.  For more information about your vision and eye health, speak to your BC Doctor of Optometry or check their website at www.bcdoctorsofoptometry.com

Written by Cowichan

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