Enjoy the sun safely
Spring has brought a welcome relief from one of the coldest, longest winter on record. Many of us want to make the most of the sunny days to come. We all know to wear sun cream on our skin to protect it from damaging sunlight, but many are less sure about protecting our eyesight.
Long-term exposure to sunlight increases the risk of developing a type of cataract, pterygia (a growth on the white of the eye), macular degeneration and photokeratitis (sunburn of the cornea). Helen Tilley, optometrist at Monnow Eyecare says “good eye protection from bright sunlight is vital to minimize harm as the damage caused cannot be reversed and it’s cumulative over time. It’s possible to get a painful burn on the surface of the eye, very similar to sunburn, from a day at the beach without wearing sunglasses”.
What should I look for when buying sunglasses?
Helen advises us to choose glasses that have:
- the 'CE Mark' and British Standard (BS EN 1836:1997)
- a UV 400 label
- a statement that the sunglasses offer 100% UV protection
Helen also advises people to think about the sides of your eyes and consider sunglasses with wide or wraparound arms. Wearing wrap around glasses can help people who get hay fever, as the lenses help protect your eyes from dust and pollen in the air.
Are some people at higher risk of eye damage than others?
Yes, the higher risk groups are:
- children - their eyes do not have the same ability as adults to protect from UV radiation and they may spend longer playing outdoors.
- anyone who spends long hours in the sun, for example fishermen, farmers or keen gardeners
- anyone who has had cataract surgery before - unless the artificial lens used absorbed UV rays
- anyone taking medicines such as tetracycline, sulfa drugs, birth control pills, diuretics or tranquilizers who should consult their doctor as these drugs may increase the sensitivity of the eyes to light.
- UV rays bounce off water so if you are spending time at the beach you should choose sunglasses with a darker tint to block more light.
- Sometimes bright sunlight and glare can trigger a migraine headache, so migraine sufferers need to be especially careful about wearing sunglasses.
What are sunglasses lenses made from?
- glass - glass lenses are the most optically stable and scratch resistant
- plastic - plastic lenses are the lightest weight material and some are coated to increase scratch resistance
- polycarbonate - this plastic lens is the most impact resistant
- laminated - combination of glass and plastic to achieve a specific performance
Which are the best types of lenses?
- photochromic lenses - this lens appears lighter indoors and darken in the sunlight to soothe the eye according to the brightness of the environment
- polarizing lenses - light reflected from surface like flat road or water is generally blocked by the vertically oriented polarizers in the lens to improve visibility
- contrast enhancing lenses - provides better visibility through contrast enhancement under certain conditions
- infra-red attenuating lenses - reduces the sunlight heat rays from passing through to the eyes for comfort
Don’t worry if it all these choices sound a bit complicated! The experienced Monnow Eyecare dispensing opticians Emily, Katie and Roberta will help you choose glasses from a broad that includes Ray Ban, Oakley and Maui Jim. You can drop into our practice on Cinderhill Street in Monmouth, phone us on 01600 715 299 or book online.