With Australia having one of the highest levels of UV in the world and one of the highest rates of skin cancer in the world, it’s important that you’re sun smart and wear sun protection this summer, and have your eyes checked if you think you might have a problem.
We conducted research1 that found that 6 out of 10 Aussies aren’t aware that the sun can permanently damage eyes by causing things like cataracts, cancer or macular degeneration.
While 92% of people are worried about long term damage to their body, the eyes are usually forgotten, with just 35% of Australians concerned about the long-term damage to their eyes from the effects of the sun.
It’s important that you know about both the potential long-term damage and what you can do to prevent it.
The reality is that living in Australia means that we can be exposed to dangerous levels of UV radiation when we’re outside, even when it’s not bright and sunny. While our eyelids are designed to protect our eyes, the skin around our eyes is very thin and contains fragile tissues that can easily be damaged by UV light. UV damage to the eye and eyelid increases risk of serious conditions such as eyelid skin cancers, intraocular melanoma, conjunctival cancers, cataracts, macular degeneration and more.
Unlike skin, where sun damage may be more visibly obvious, it’s not necessarily the case when it when it comes to the eyes as you may not notice symptoms until well after the damage is done. You may not realise that symptoms such as redness, blurry vision, swelling, light sensitivity, seeing halos and experiencing watery eyes can all be possible symptoms of sun damage to the eyes.
The research found that not only is there a lack of awareness of the sun exposure implications on eyes, but that two in five Aussies admit that they don’t wear sunglasses most of the time when they’re outside. We also found that most Aussies don’t necessarily have lenses that provide the right level of protection with less than half (47%) owning sunglasses with any kind of UV protection, and 39% unsure of what kind of protection their sunglasses have.
Most of our patients don’t know what to look for in sunglasses when it comes to sun protection. The same way you put on sunscreen and a hat to protect your body; you should make sure you are wearing sunglasses that block out UV.
We recommend sunglasses that have polarised lenses because they not only offer 100% UV protection for your eyes, but they also eliminate 99.9% of glare caused by reflected light.
Around half of Aussies think they only need to wear sunglasses when it’s sunny and during the middle of the day – they don’t know that it’s important to wear sunglasses at other times of the day such as in the afternoon, in the morning, in winter or even when it is cloudy/overcast.
You may think that sunglasses only need to be worn on a hot sunny day at the beach for example, but regardless of whether it’s clear skies and high temperatures or not, as a preventative measure you should be wearing them every time you’re outside.
Here are some of our tips on how to look after your eyes in the sun:
- Apply sunscreen on your eyelids and around your eyes: While the eyelid is designed to protect the eye, the skin is very thin and contains fragile tissues that can be damaged by UV light so it’s important to make sure you apply sunscreen to your eyelids and reapply it every two hours.
- Wear a broadbrimmed hat: This will not only provide protection to your head but also your eyes, nose, ears and neck.
- Wear sunglasses that have UV protection: For the best kind of protection, buy sunglasses that have polarised lenses as they provide superior vision in bright light, by eliminating 99.9% of horizontal glare, while also providing 100% UV protection.
- Be mindful of the amount of time you spend in the sun: The longer you spend outside, the higher your chance of experiencing sun damage. If you know you will be spending a long period outside, try to spend most of it in a shaded area.
- Understand your family history: If you have a family history of melanoma or skin cancer, you could be at higher risk of developing those conditions.
- Get your eyes tested regularly: The best way to understand if your eyes are healthy and free from damage is to visit your local optometrist. We recommend that you get your eyes tested every two years, or every year if you’re over the age of 65.
More generally, remember the SunSmart slip, slop, slap, seek and slide rule. When you’re outside, slip on sun protective clothing, slop on SPF 30 or higher sunscreen, slap on a hat, seek shade and, slide on sunglasses that provide UV protection.
- Research by YouGov, commissioned by Specsavers, 2020 The sample comprised a nationally representative sample 1,000 Australians aged 18+ years and older