Top tips on how to protect your eyes against harmful UV rays
Using sunscreen to protect your skin against damage from the sun seems very obvious, but not enough of us protect our eyes from bright light – and the dangers can be just as bad! During the summer months, time spent outdoors increases and the longer days mean UV is present for a longer period.
Ultraviolet radiation is often referred to as UV light, although the term technically is incorrect because you cannot see UV rays. There are three categories of invisible high-energy UV rays:
- UVC rays are the highest-energy UV rays with wavelengths of 100-280 nanometer (nm) and potentially could be the most harmful to your eyes and skin. Fortunately, the atmosphere’s ozone layer blocks virtually all UVC rays
- UVB rays.UVB radiation stimulates the production of melanin in the skin which makes us tan, causes sunburn that increases the risk of skin cancer and causes wrinkles and other signs of premature ageing of the skin
- UVA rays.These are closer to visible light rays and have lower energy than UVB and UVC rays. But UVA rays can pass through the cornea and reach the lens and retina inside the eye.
Cataracts and growths on the eye such as pingueculae and pterygia – which can cause corneal problems as well as distorted vision – and even cancer can all be caused and be worsened by exposure to Ultra-Violet (UV) light but protecting your eyes is very simple. A good quality pair of sunglasses will block harmful UV rays but there a few points to check before purchasing:
Use only glasses that block both UV-A and UV-B rays and that are labelled either UV400 or 100% UV protection. Wraparound styles offer the best protection for not only your eyes but also the eyelids and surrounding skin, which is thinner than the skin on the rest of your face
Be aware that clouds don’t block UV light: The sun’s rays can pass through haze and clouds and more than 95% of UV is still present even on a cloudy day. Sun damage to the eyes can occur any time of year, not just in summer and UV is NOT related to heat. Sunlight is strongest mid-day to early afternoon, at higher altitudes, and when reflected off of water, ice or snow.
Have your sunglasses measured and fitted by a Qualified Optician. Our team will ensure your sunglasses have the best possible fit, give you advice on the different lens options such as colours and mirror finishes which reflect even more light and will help you to get the most out of your sunglasses.
Keep them in good condition! Scratched lenses and bent frames mean your sunglasses may not be doing the job correctly. At Hammond Opticians we offer a complimentary MOT and service which will ensure the lens quality is still good, still blocking 100% of harmful UV rays and check that they still fit you well.
The risk of damage to your eyes and skin from UV radiation is cumulative, meaning the danger increases with time. With this in mind, it’s especially important for kids to protect their eyes from the sun. Children generally spend much more time outdoors than adults.
In fact, some experts say that because children tend to spend significantly more time outdoors than most adults, up to half of a person’s lifetime exposure to UV radiation can occur by age 18. (Other research cited by The Skin Cancer Foundation says slightly less than 25 percent of our lifetime exposure to UV radiation is sustained during childhood.) Also, children are more susceptible to retinal damage from UV rays because the lens inside a child’s eye is clearer than an adult lens, enabling more UV to penetrate deep into the eye.
Therefore, make sure your kids’ eyes are protected from the sun with good quality sunglasses. Also, encourage your child to wear a hat on sunny days to further reduce UV exposure continues to grow as we spend time in the sun throughout our lifetime.