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How to protect your eyes from UV damage

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When you think about sunscreen and sun protection, do you think about protecting your eyes as well? UV protection is important for healthy eyes as it can help prevent eye diseases like cataracts, pterygiums, pingueculae, and macular degeneration. Also, the skin around your eyes is very thin and more susceptible to being damage by UV radiation. UV damage is cumulative meaning that UV protection is important throughout your entire life to prevent damage.

Did you know that UV protection is more important for kids?

The World Health Organization states that up to 80% of a person’s lifetime exposure to UV radiation is reached before the age of 18. This is partially due to children spending more time outdoors, they also tend to have larger pupils, and their eyes are especially clear. The cornea and lens in children’s eyes are clear and they become cloudy with age. This process of ageing also results in the cornea and lens developing some natural UV protection by blocking some UVA and UVB rays. The cumulative effect of UV exposure and clear eyes make it the most important time for UV protection.

How sunglasses fit is extremely important

Close-fitting sunglasses that wrap around the side of your face will prevent UV exposure. Aviator sunglasses are the worst type of sunglasses for UV protection for this reason. Aviators sit far away from your eyes and UV radiation can enter your eyes from the top and sides of the sunglasses. When UV radiation enters the side of the sunglasses it increases the risk for pterygium and pingueculae formation. This is called the Peripheral Light Focusing effect. Buy sunglasses that fit close to your eyes and offer full protection around your eyes and wrap closely on the sides.

Buy good quality sunglasses from a brand you trust

Did you know that the lens itself should have UV protection built in. Sometimes sunglass lenses have a UV coating that can be scratched or rubbed off and provide no UV protection. This is why it is important to get lenses where the lens material itself has UV protection so that no matter how many times you clean your glasses, rub them, or scratch them they will still be protecting your eyes. Our clear lenses made from the thinner lens materials (1.53 and up) have full UV protection built in. Our sunglasses have full UV protection built into the lens, it doesn’t matter if they are polarized or not. Polarized sunglasses reduce glare from horizontal surfaces which can help improve your vision when driving on wet roads, and when there is glare on water.

The research

UV exposure to your eyes is greatest in the morning and afternoon when the sun is lower in the sky. This UV exposure when the sun is lower is nearly double than in the mid-day. This is because the light is directly entering your eyes and your facial features like your eyebrows and eyelids are not providing as much protection. A wide brimmed hat can reduce UV exposure to the eyes by a factor of four. The frequent use of sunglasses can reduce your risk of cataracts by 40%.

Written by Mindy Blumberg

Dr. Mindy Blumberg is an optometrist registered with the BC College of Optometrists and is a member of the BC Doctors of Optometry. She graduated from the University of Waterloo and moved to Whistler, BC, to live in the mountains. Mindy grew up alpine ski racing and now has a special interest in sports vision. She helps with performance vision training with the Canadian Ski Cross and the BC Alpine Ski Team. Dr. Blumberg brings expertise on post-concussion vision rehabilitation and performance sports vision. She also uses these functional vision skills and vision therapy to improve reading and comprehension in children by enhancing the visual systems needed to have academic success.
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