The importance of UV protection for your eyes

Like most British people, as soon as the sun comes out we’re out there basking in all that Vitamin D goodness. Most people are usually aware of protecting their skin from UV exposure but there is also a massive importance in protecting your eyes.

UV exposure is directly linked to many eye conditions, including cataracts, age-related macular degeneration (ARMD), pingueculae and pterygia.

The best way to protect your eyes is wearing glasses with 100% UV protection. Not all sunglasses actually protect 100% against UV rays, be sure to check for reputable sunglasses brands. At Chakshu London opticians, we use Hoya’s UV Control coating on all of our sunglass lenses. This coating can even be added as a transparent coating onto your regular optical glasses so you get 100% UV protection all year round. Alternatively you can opt for a photochromic lenses, which turn into sunglasses when you are outdoors!

What is UV and why is it harmful to your eyes?

UV stands for ultraviolet radiation, and is usually split into three categories.

UV-A

UV-A rays have the lowest energy and are able to pass through the cornea and affect the lens and the retina. This can cause certain types of cataracts, and can cause age-related cataracts to mature faster. Studies have also shown UV-A rays are one of the risk factors linked to the development of ARMD.

UV-B

UV-B rays are of higher energy compared to UV-A rays, they cause your body to produce melanin which is what gives you a tan when you’re out the sun. Some UV-B rays are blocked by the Earth’s o-zone layer.

Over exposure to UV-B rays cause eye problems such as a pinguecula or a pterygium. Although both of these conditions are not serious, they affect the appearance of the eyes. Pterygia can also affect the vision if advanced and may need to be removed if this does start to happen.

Due to protection from the cornea (the transparent layer at the front of your eye), UV-B rays do not tend to affect the back of the eye.

UV-C

UV-C is the most harmful of the three types of UV radiation as it has the highest energy UV rays. Thankfully, the Earth’s o-zone layer protects us and blocks virtually all UV-C rays.

Unfortunately due to climate changes and the damage to the o-zone layer we are at risk of further UV-related health issues.

Top tips for protecting your eyes from UV exposure:

  • Wear sunglasses or glasses with 100% UV protection, wrap around sunglasses protect your eyes even more from UV rays, that can come from all angles.
  • UV protection is important even on cloudy days, harmful UV rays can still penetrate through cloud cover.
  • UV rays can reflect! They reflect off surfaces such as water and snow, therefore it is important to wear sunglasses if you are doing activities such as skiing, snowboarding and sailing. Polarised sunglass lenses are better in these instances, as they cut out more reflected UV rays than non-polarised sunglasses.
  • UV protection is not just for adults, make sure your children’s eyes are protected too! UV damage is a cumulative effect through years and years of exposure, start protecting their eyes as early as possible.
  • Even if your contact lenses protect against UV it is still a good idea to wear sunglasses as it will protect your eyes from the conditions that affect the front of your eye, such as pingueculae and pterygia.
  • Have your eyes tested regularly, your optometrist will assess your eye health and look for any signs of UV damage, book your eye test here.

Enjoy the lovely British summer (finger-crossed we get one like last year!), but be safe and make sure your eyes and skin are protected from harmful UV rays. Pop in to Chakshu London opticians, located near Camden Town, Regent’s Park and Primrose Hill and let our knowledgeable staff talk you through your options in more detail and check out our fantastic range of handcrafted sunglasses.