Ultraviolet (UV) protection
One day can still do damage
If your eyes are exposed to excessive amounts of UV radiation over a short period of time, you will likely experience photokeratitis. Like a "sunburn of the eye," photokeratitis can be painful, with symptoms including red eyes, a foreign body sensation or gritty feeling in the eyes, extreme sensitivity to light and excessive tearing. Fortunately, these symptoms are usually temporary and rarely cause permanent damage to the eyes.
The longer the eyes are exposed to solar radiation, the greater the risk of developing cataracts, eye cancer, pterygium (surfer’s eye) or macular degeneration later in life. It is not clear how much exposure to solar radiation will cause damage. So, whenever you spend time outdoors, wear a wide-brim hat as well as quality sunglasses that offer UV protection.
To provide adequate protection for your eyes, sunglasses should:
- Block out 99 to 100% of both UV-A and UV-B radiation.
- Screen out 75 to 90% of visible light.
- •Have lenses that are perfectly matched in color and free of distortion and imperfection.
- •Have lenses that are gray for proper color recognition.
If you participate in potentially eye-hazardous outdoor work or sports, your sunglass lenses should be made from polycarbonate or Trivex ® material. These lenses provide the most impact resistance. If you spend a lot of time outdoors in bright sunlight, consider wearing wraparound frames for additional protection from the harmful solar radiation. Don't forget protection for children and teenagers. They typically spend more time in the sun than adults. Also, certain contact lenses can provide additional UV protection, which is why it is so important to visit your optometrist when renewing your prescription—to ensure your contacts are the right fit for your lifestyle and level of sun exposure, which is something that so-called “online vision tests” cannot provide.
Don’t forget indoor risks
Artificial sources of UV light such as welding machines, tanning beds and lasers can also pose serious eye health issues. As part of your annual comprehensive eye exam, be sure to talk to your doctor of optometry about any indoor risks—as well as your outdoor activities in all seasons—so that your level of UV exposure can be assessed and the appropriate UV absorbing glasses and/or contact lenses prescribed for your individual needs and ongoing protection.
Eye injuries in the workplace are very common. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) reports that every day about 2,000 U.S. workers sustain job-related eye injuries that require medical treatment. However, safety experts and eye doctors believe the right eye protection can lessen the severity or even prevent 90% of these eye injuries.
Taking care of your health is critical and you may have concerns related to eye health as a result of the COVID-19 public health crisis. Doctors of optometry are resuming the delivery of comprehensive eye health and vision care and implementing new protocols to provide care in a safe and healthy environment.
Did you know a comprehensive eye exam with your doctor of optometry doesn’t just determine if you need eyeglasses or contact lenses? In fact, your doctor also carefully looks at all aspects of your eye health, which can help provide a clearer picture of your overall health. Comprehensive eye exams go well beyond the goal of 20/20 vision.