How can I protect my eyes from UV rays?
Most people love getting a little bit of sun every now and then, but it's important to know how to protect yourself against the ultraviolet (UV) radiation emitted from the sun. This level of protection should encompass not just your skin but your eyes as well. About UV raysUltraviolet rays are classified in three different groups - UVA, UVB and UVC. Each one can damage your skin even though you can't actually feel it doing so and they are all invisible to the naked eye, so it's important to know how to protect yourself before you head out into the heat. UVA is the most common type of ray and the type that penetrates most deeply into the skin. It's known as 'long wavelength' radiation and makes up the majority of sunrays that reach the surface of the Earth. This form of UV radiation is present all year round, not just in summer, and it can also penetrate through glass and clouds - so it's important to remember sun safety rules at every point in the year. On the other hand, UVB is classified as middle-range and is the type contributing to sunburns, tans and skin cancer. UVC is the third category of UV radiation. It has the highest energy but the shortest penetration ability and is usually filtered out by the ozone layer surrounding the planet. By now, most people know about the damage UV rays can cause to the skin. However, it also has severe effects on the delicate eye area as well. UVB radiation is one of the risk factors for cataracts (a clouding of the eye's lens) and has also been linked to macular degeneration (the gradual loss of central vision). In addition to this, UVB can also cause skin cancer around the eyelids and has also been linked to the development of pingueculae and pterygia on the eyes, two types of growths that can harm the cornea and cause distorted vision. If you're frequently out in environments where UV radiation is intensified, such as the glare reflected from snow, the ocean or even concrete, it's even more important to protect your eyes. Excessive exposure through these activities can lead to a burn on the front surface of your eye, much like how your skin reacts in a sunburn when subjected to strong sun without protection.
How can you protect your eyes?
To prevent UV radiation from damaging your eyes, you will need to combine a number of strategies. Sunglasses with a high level of protection against the rays (known as eye protection factor or EPF) are essential, as is a wide-brimmed hat to provide shade for your face. Wrap-around sunglasses offer better protection because they block out the rays that are coming over, under and around the conventional sunglass lenses. Everyone is at risk for eye damage without the proper precautions, so you should wear sunglasses even on cloudy days. Polarised lenses also help reduce the glare reflecting off other surfaces, and you can opt for prescription sunglasses if you need vision correction as well. In Australia and New Zealand, all sunglasses need to be tested for sun safety standards. The Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency (ARPANSA) sets the standard for protection against UV damage, with lens categories ranging from 0-4. Sunglasses with a rating of 2 offer medium sun glare reduction and good UV protection, while a rating of 3 means high sun glare reduction and good UV protection. UV protection in glasses and contact lensesSome contact lenses are designed to block UV rays, but they should still be worn with sunglasses to protect the areas of the eye not covered by the contact lenses. At Specsavers we also offer an UltraClear coating for glasses that reduce the glare from from computer screens and car headlights. On higher index lenses, this coating also provides a UV treatment for eye protection.