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Why is UV protection important?

What is UV and why should you protect your eyes from it?

Ultra-Violet (UV) light is short-wavelength, invisible light emitted by the Sun and is divided into three types A, B and C.

UV-C is the highest energy form of UV light and is mostly absorbed by the Earths’ atmosphere but UV-A and UV-B are not.

UV-B is mostly absorbed by the cornea (the front of the eye).  High exposure to UV-B rays can lead to Pterygium (a growth on the surface of the eyes) or skin cancers on the eyelids such as Basal Cell Carcinomas.

UV-A is closest to visible light and has been found to increase the development of cataracts and macular degeneration.

Our bodies have some natural protection to reduce UV exposure, the shade of the eyebrows and eyelashes as well as the ability to make your pupil smaller and even squint to reduce the amount of light entering the eye.  However, these are normally responses to bright, visible light and UV levels can also be high in dimmer situations, particularly where there are a lot of reflective surfaces such as low cloud and water.

Children are particularly at risk from UV light as they tend to spend more time outside and their eyes do not provide the same protection from UV as an adult eye.  In fact the WHO estimate that 80% of your lifetimes UV absorption in the eye happens by the age of 20!

SO what shall we do!

The simplest answer is to wear good quality, well-fitting sunglasses as much as possible – particularly children, ideally with a brimmed hat.

Many contact lenses block UV and this gives protection to the inside of the eye but not the white of the eye or the eyelids.

Many of the coatings that are applied to clear spectacle lenses now are also UV blocking and will help provide protection.

August 2018