By Susan Resnick, OD, FAAO, Drs. Farkas, Kassalow, Resnick & Associates, New York
Throughout my career, I’ve seen thousands (maybe even tens of thousands!) of patients in my practice, and one of the most common items that links everyone together is the lack of understanding of the dangers that UV rays pose to the health of our eyes. I advocate for full body protection – broad spectrum sunscreen and UPF clothing for the skin, and comprehensive protection for the eyes.
But first, let me explain why UV exposure can potentially harm the health of your eyes. A number of studies have shown that the effects of UV radiation to the eyes are mostly cumulative, and UV exposure may increase the chance of developing eye problems later in life. Once you, or your eye doctor, notices damage, it’s often too late to reverse it.
It’s also important to know that if it is daytime; your eyes are being exposed to UV rays. A cloudy day is no excuse for not protecting your eyes – it’s estimated that up to 80% of UV rays can pass through thin clouds1. Appropriate protection is also vital in all four seasons – while direct sunlight itself can be harmful, reflected UV rays can increase your UV exposure. For example, fresh snow reflects as much as 80% of UV rays2 and those rays can bounce up directly into the eyes.
So what should you do each day to help protect your eyes from the sun? Start with a wide-brimmed hat, like a sun hat or a baseball cap. The hat helps to block the sun from above, especially when it is highest in the sky (10 a.m. – 2 p.m.).
Second, high-quality, UV blocking sunglasses are essential. Not all sunglasses are equal, and UV blocking doesn’t necessarily mean expensive. Pay attention to labels, and look for 100% UVA/UVB blocking. Sunglasses that block at least 99 percent of UV are OK too – you want to limit UV transmission to no more than 1 percent UVB and 1 percent UVA rays. Make sure to look for frames that wraparound the face, and cover the eyes from the eyebrow to the upper cheek.
For those who require vision correction, UV blocking contact lenses+* can offer an additional measure of UV protection. Not all contact lenses offer UV protection, and of those that do, not all provide similar absorption levels. ACUVUE® Brand Contact Lenses is the only major brand which blocks approximately 97% of UVB and 81% of UVA rays as standard across the entire range of its products+*. Although UV-blocking contact lenses are beneficial in helping to protect against harmful UV rays, clinical studies have not been done to show they reduce the risk of any specific eye disease or condition. That’s why it is important to wear them as part of a comprehensive sun protection plan along your wide-brimmed hat and sunglasses.
Talk to your eye doctor about UV protection, and for additional information, check out “The Sun & Your Eyes: What You Need to Know” at www.acuvue.com/sunandyoureyes.
1 Sunburn: Causes, Mayo Clinic: http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/sunburn/basics/causes/con-20031065
2 Global solar UV Index, World Health Organization: http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/who271/en/print.html
Susan Resnick, OD, FAAO, is a partner at Drs. Farkas, Kassalow, Resnick & Associates. She authors, lectures and consults in the areas of specialty contact lenses and emerging vision and eyecare technologies. In addition to her contact lens specialty, Dr. Resnick maintains a strong interest and participation in primary optometric care including binocular vision assessment and pediatric examinations. Dr. Resnick is an authoritative source for eye health and has been quoted in Women’s Health, FoxNews.com, Allure.com and Glamour.com, among others and serves as an advisor to the industry as a clinical investigator in the contact lens and pharmaceutical fields. Dr. Resnick is a member of the America Academy of Optometry and the Nassau County Optometric Society. Dr. Resnick is a paid consultant for Johnson & Johnson Vision Care, Inc., which provided support for this content.