As healthcare personnel we frequently discuss the harmful effects of the sun on our skin and the risk of skin wrinkling and also skin cancers. Similarly, our eyes also change with increased exposure to the sun.
With prolonged and direct exposure to the ultra-violet (UV) rays of the sun, the cells in our eyes are damaged and contribute to common, short term eye conditions like mild irritation, inflammation and dry eyes. Photokeratitis or sunburn of the eye is common and can lead to blurry vision, light sensitivity and even temporary blindness referred to as snow blindness. More serious, long term ocular conditions from sunlight exposure include cataracts, pterygium, pinguecula, macular degeneration and ocular melanoma.
We advise to protect your eyes from harmful UV light by using broad-brimmed hats when outdoors and sunglasses or protective eye-wear that meets the relevant Australian standards.
There are many different sunglasses available from several outlets including the corner/convenience store, chemist etc. Many sunglasses do not actually protect your eyes from UV damage but rather serve as a fashion accessory.
Non-wraparound sunglasses are not effective in blocking peripheral UV light. With sunglasses, choose a large, wrap-around, close fitting pair of approved sunglasses which helps reduce the effects of sunlight and glare when outdoors. When choosing sunglasses, ensure that they meet the Australian standards for eye protection (AS 1067) in category 2 or higher. These lenses absorb more than 95% of UV radiation and prevent it from reaching the eyes.
Polarised sunglasses are a highly specialised type of sunglass design that helps eliminate harsh, blinding glare and improve visual comfort and performance. Polarised sunglasses have several benefits including:
- improved visibility into water when fishing or engaging in water-sports
- better vision especially when very bright
- reduced eye strain when fighting against glare
- better colour vision quality and less distortion
- reduced reflection of light off different surfaces (water, glass)
Sunglasses have an eye protection factor (EPF). Ratings of EPF 9 or 10 exceeds the requirements of the Australian standards and provide excellent protection from UV light. The colour and darkness of the sunglass lenses do not indicate the level of UV protection – check the label.
UV blocking lenses are available with your prescription included in your spectacle lenses. Tinted or photochromatic lenses reduces glare but do not necessarily have higher UV protection. Speak to our Optometrists for more information on UV protection sunglasses.
Children are particularly sensitive to UV radiation effects to the skin and eyes. It is important to protect children’s eyes too. Sunglasses are available for toddlers and young children. It is important to choose a frame style that stays securely on the face and does not become a safety hazard. Toy sunglasses do not meet the Australian standards for eye protection and should not be used.
You may also buy sunglasses that are designed to suit certain sport codes (golf, cycling, cricket, sailing). Swimming goggles with UV protection are also available.
Protecting your eyes is essential but comfort is also important. There are several options available to best protect your eyes from the harmful UV light and at the same time maintaining good vision and comfort. For more information, speak to our Optometrist or dispensers who will recommend best options to suit your individual needs.