All about Eye health AND UV PROTECTION:
Here on the Gold Coast and Tweed Heads we live in the outdoor living capital of Australia. So many of us head outdoors at the first opportunity to enjoy a multitude of activities both on land and water. Of course time outdoors also means exposure to the sun, and possible ultraviolet light damage through sun burn. We all know the risks of sun ultraviolet radiation (UV) for our skin, but many of us are not as aware of the damaging effects that sun exposure can have on our eyes. Research from the Australian Skin Cancer Foundation shows that our eyes are 10 times more sensitive to ultraviolet radiation than our skin. Further the skin around the eyes is one of the most common areas for skin cancers with up to 10-15% of skin cancers being in this region.
Exposure to UV light can also raise the risk of various eye diseases such cataracts, macular degeneration or pterygiums. These conditions can take many years to develop, but each time we’re out in the sun without protection we are adding to our exposure risk.
One of the things to remember is that UV rays are not in the visible light spectrum, they are in the high energy end of the spectrum meaning they will cause more damage and are invisible so you will get burnt on an overcast day. There are three types of UV radiation:
These are the highest energy UV rays 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 have slightly lower energy than UVC rays. These rays are filtered partially by the ozone layer, but some still reach the Earth’s surface. In lower exposure doses UVB causes skin tanning, but in higher doses, UVB causes sunburn that increases the risk of skin cancer. UVB also causes wrinkles and other signs of premature aging of the skin. Excessive UVB is associated with pterygiums and surface damage but because the cornea seems to absorb 100% of UVB it doesn’t penetrate deep into the eyes.
UVA rays have lower energy than UVB and UVC. UVA can pass into the back of the eye and reach the lens and retina and they are therefore linked to the development of cataracts and macular degeneration.
Too much exposure to UV light increases the risk of various eye diseases.
Many people believe it is only the midday sun that poses the greatest UV threat but this is not the case. On some days UV exposure to the eye before 10 am and after 2 pm may be higher than during the middle of the day due to the angle of the sun in relation to the eye.
Children generally spend more time outdoors than adults with up to 50% of your lifetime UV exposure occurring before age 18. Its therefore really important to ensure kids protect their eyes when outside too with hats and sunglasses.
Tips for protecting your eyes from UV damage
Follow these tips to protect your eyes from the Gold Coast sun all year long:
- Make a habit of wearing UV protective sunglasses and broad-brimmed hats whenever you’re outside.
- Don’t be fooled by clouds or the fact that you’re in the shade: a significant amount of damage to the eye can come from indirect light, whether it is from the side or reflected off surfaces such as the ground, sand or water.
- Sunglasses are also available with tinted prescription lenses for those requiring glasses for clear vision.
- Remember the kids and older family members.
- When purchasing sunglasses, remember to check the sun protection factor on the swing tag, look for high category 2 or 3 (Australian standard) lenses.
- Polarised lenses can be particularly helpful for reflected glare such as when at the beach or snow. We wear and recommend Maui Jim sunglasses due to their superior lens technology.
- A close fitting, wraparound pair or classic style with thick arms can help prevent glare and damaging rays from coming in the sides of sunglasses.
- If in doubt, the qualified dispensing staff and optometrists at Envision Optical can assist with fitting and advise you on the best lenses for your protection.