Sunscreen for Our Eyes: Why We Need UV Protection Lenses
Sunscreen for Our Eyes: Why We Need UV Protection
Applying sunscreen is a daily occurrence for many of us and for good reason. Overexposure to harmful UV rays causes skin damage and can lead to skin cancer, something that will happen to one in three Aussies and Kiwis. However, we often neglect to protect our eyes from these same rays. Our eyes, and the skin around them, are susceptible to UV damage, around 5 to 10 percent of all skin cancers occur around our eyes and UV is implicated in the development of conditions such as pterygia and cataracts.
Advances in lens technology means it is now easier than ever to protect our eyes from UV. Choosing the right spectacle lens material and applying the right lens coating, such as one from the Crizal range, will cut not only UV rays hitting the front of the lens but also rays that reflect off the back of the lens. The combination of material and coating can enhance all lenses from single vision to progressives. Crizal coatings include the properties of anti-reflection, scratch-resistance, smudge resistance, anti-static to reduce dust collection and of course blocking reflected UV.
What is UV radiation?
While there are manmade sources of UV radiation, like tanning beds, lasers and welding machines, by far the main source of it is the sun. UV is what is known as electromagnetic radiation and its waves are shorter than visible light (you can't see UV) but longer then X-rays. There are three forms of UV radiation:
- UV C is mostly absorbed by the ozone layer and is therefore not considered a threat. However, due to damage to the ozone layer this may not be the case on a permanent basis. UVC is sometimes used in medicine for its germicidal properties
- UV B causes damage through sunburn and suntan, plus it reduces collagen and vitamin A in our skin
- UVA causes DNA damage in our skin and you can see its impact because it fades the furniture as more than of it passes through window glass
Why do we need UV protection for our eyes?
Excessive exposure to UV radiation over a brief period of time may lead to photokeratitis, (commonly called snow blindness), a very painful inflammation in your cornea. This is basically a ‘sunburn’ of the eye; and while the symptoms, which include red eyes, a gritty feeling in the eye, pain, sensitivity to light and excessive tearing, are unpleasant, they are mercifully temporary.
On the other hand long-term exposure can result in increasing the risk of developing cataracts, retinal damage, pterygia (visible growths on the white of the eye) and skin cancers around the eyes
This why we need to protect our eyes in the same way we use sunscreen to protect our skin. UV protection for our eyes is absolutely essential for young an old. While sunglasses either UV rated ones off the shelf or prescription sunglasses are an obvious choice and indeed play a very important role, when wearing your normal glasses you also need to opt to protect yourself by ensuring that you ask for UV protection in your clear lenses too.
What are UV protection lenses/glasses?
The material used for specific clear plastic, spectacle lenses, known as high index lenses, block 100% UV, as do all Transitions and polarising lens materials. The most common lens material, often called CR39, only blocks 94% UV unless you add a UV-blocking dye. Today blocking UV that hits your lenses front on is not enough. Research has shown that UV can reflect off the back of lenses when sunlight comes from the sides or even behind you. New anti-reflection coatings like Crizal Sapphire UV on your lenses effectively blocks these reflected ultraviolet rays .
As the worlds’ largest manufacturer of ophthalmic lenses, we have long been a proponent of the idea that we should protect our eyes with the same focus and enthusiasm as we do our skin. Essilor developed The Eye-Sun Protection Factor (E-SPF™). This index certifies the overall UV protection your lenses provide your eyes by taking into account the UV from the front and from the back and sides. As with sunscreen, the higher the value, the greater the protection, for example E-SPF™ 50+ offers optimal UV protection outside.
Often people think all sunglasses offer UV protection, while they can be you must look at the label to see if they are certified for UV protection under the ANZ standards.
UV Protection Lenses Summary
- UV lenses can be clear, tinted, polarised or Transitions so you can be protected no matter what the light conditions, (remember UV rays pass right through clouds)
- UV lenses block 100% of the sun’s harmful UV rays, with an anti-reflection coating like Crizal Sapphire UV you also block UV that reflects off the back of your lenses
- Most UV lenses have the UV block embedded in the lens material, so it never wears off
- Even if you forget your sunnies, clear lenses with UV protection will still do the job
To get the best of both worlds, you can use Transitions lenses, which adapt to light intensity, meaning you can have tinted glasses when outdoors in the sun and clear lenses in a dimly-lit room.
Never too early or too late
Parents should make sure that their children’s glasses also have UV protection. Children’s eyes are clearer and their pupils are larger, making them more susceptible to UV rays. To find out more about the best ways for your glasses to have UV protection, speak to your local optometrist.
Want UV protection for your eyes?
Speak to your nearest optometrist today