Everyone knows how important it is to wear sunscreen, especially if you’re going to be spending the day outside. Sunscreen has become a part of many of our daily routines and is in most skin creams. Enjoying our short summers here in Calgary usually means spending as much time as possible outside while the weather is nice and we all know we need to wear sunscreen when we’re outside all day. Protecting your eyes from the sun though is just as important.
In my last blog I talked about cataracts and how UV light increases your risk of getting cataracts sooner. Several blogs ago I talked about macular degeneration and how one of the main preventable risk factors in the disease is exposure to UV light! If you’ve been reading my blogs you already know how important protecting your eyes from the sun is. UV light also increases your risk of certain eye and eyelid cancers as well as wrinkles, lumpy fleshy elevations on the white of your eye called pingueculae or even fleshy growths over the clear part of your eye called pterygia!
So I’ve convinced you how important sun protection is (I hope!) and you get it now. Even though sun protection is really important did you know that almost one third of people don’t wear sunglasses at all? When we talk about kids that number increases to almost 50%! While it is definitely important for people of all ages to wear sun protection it is extra important for kids. A combination of very large pupils, a more transparent lens inside of their eye that allows far more UV to penetrate inside and spending more time outside than most adults leads to 80% of lifetime UV exposure to the eye to happen before the age of 18!
All sunglasses are the same though, right? Wrong. Not all sunglasses block all UV light rays. All sunglasses sold in Canada have some degree of UV protection but not all block 99% of UVB rays which is what is recommended to best protect your eyes! If you have sunglasses and want to know how much UV they block feel free to bring them in to our office and we can measure how much UV is blocked at no cost to you.
So you’re saying to yourself alright, I get it, I need to wear good sunglasses: I have more news. Sunglasses are often not enough. Even nice big sunglasses still let some light in around the edges and especially some of the extremely cool aviator frames are flat (they don't 'wrap' around your face) and don’t offer much protection from the side. You have some options to help protect yourself further. A good hat with a wide brim helps prevent as much sunlight from getting around your sunglasses. Another option though is to wear contacts!
I know you’re wondering how on Earth contact lenses could help. It’s a fair question since most do not. All contact lenses offered by Acuvue though have some degree of UV protection. They have many that will block over 99% of UVB! This is a great option for protecting your eyes from the sun and at Eye Spy Optometry we carry a wide variety of Acuvue products.
So which is best? Sunglasses? A hat? UV blocking contact lenses? The answer is all of them together. All these options will work together to give you comprehensive UV protection for your eyes. It’s important to remember as well that UV exposure doesn’t decrease very much on cloudy days, under water, in the winter or at dawn or dusk. If you think you only need sun protection from 10:00am-4:00pm on sunny days in the summer you’re going to still get a heavy dose of UV the rest of the time! Think about all those times on the ski hill when you’ve ended up with a burn on the few exposed areas of skin you had.
Remember to protect your eyes, protect your skin and protect your health with as many UV blocking options as you can find. Your body will thank you for it!