It’s always nice to have a day when the sun shines, but beware. Those bright rays bearing down on our planet carry harmful ultraviolet (UV) radiation to our eyes. The longer our eyes are exposed to UV light, the greater the risk of developing cataracts or macular degeneration later in life. Those who wear contact lenses may have a new way to protect themselves from the damaging effects of the sun exposure.
The American Optometric Association (AOA) has always recommended everyone to wear sunglasses that block 99-100% of UV-A and UV-B rays preventing radiation to the eyes. Now, contact lens wearers can opt to use contacts that can add even more protection. These contacts absorb UV radiation by reducing the amount of radiation that reaches the surface of the eye. They also protect the eyes from radiation coming from above or around the sides of sunglasses.
Even though these contacts blocking UV light will be a welcomed form of more protection against UV radiation, don’t let them give you a false sense of security. Depending on the style of contact lenses, they can vary in how much UV they block and they also do not protect the sclera (whites of the eyes) and eyelids, which are also vulnerable to sun damage. Therefore, even with these UV-blocking contact lenses, a person still needs to wear sunglasses.
It is not known exactly how much exposure to UV radiation it takes to cause damage to the eyes which is why it is important to protect them whenever we are outdoors by wearing sunglasses. To provide the best protection for our eyes, choose sunglasses that:
· Block out 99 to 100 percent of both UV-A and UV-B radiation
· Screen out 75 to 90 percent of visible light
· Have lenses that are perfectly matched in color and free of distortion and imperfection
· Have lenses that are gray for proper color recognition
It is recommended by the AOA that those who work in potentially eye-hazardous outdoor work or sports to choose sunglasses made from polycarbonate or Trivex material as they have the most impact resistance.
Wearing sunglasses with a wraparound frame will give even more additional protection from harmful solar radiation.
Here is a list of questions provided by AOA that anyone who answers “yes” to one or more could be at risk of harming their eyes to UV radiation and should make sure they are wearing proper sunglasses and if they are contact lens wearers to ask their optometrist about using them:
· Do you spend a great deal of time outdoors?
· Do you spend time skiing, mountain climbing or at the beach?
· Do you use a sunlamp or tanning parlor?
· Are you a welder, medical technologist or do you work in graphic arts or in the manufacture of electronic circuit boards?
· Do you take prescription or over-the-counter drugs that can increase your sensitivity to UV radiation?