Eye Health

12 November 2013

UV rays and the impact on your eyes

Vision optometrists provides an In depth look at the damage caused by UV rays.

Three types of UV rays exist

  • Frame: A wraparound frame and/or curved shaped lenses are better than flat shaped lenses. They not only protect most of the eye, they also shield the skin around the eyes from all light rays and reflections.
  • Lens material: The standard plastic lens gives 92% protection whilst a glass lens doesn't absorb much UV light at all, therefore providing no UV protection. Modern materials like polycarbonate lenses provide total protection from UV.
  • Coatings: UV filter is essential and gives 100% protection against UVA, B and C, can be used on sunglasses and clear lenses
  • Transitions™: (variable tint/photochromatic) lenses provide 100% protection against UV radiation. These coatings are activated by UV light and not visible light, therefore the amount of darkening depends on temperature and sun light.
  • Tint: Brown and tan lenses provide the best protection against UV and visible light, it blocks 95% of blue light and doesn’t distort colours.

  • Not all sunglasses give 100% protection against all the UV rays so ensure you buy sunglasses from a reputable source.
  • One should wear sunglasses even in the shade as surfaces like table tops and beach sand still reflect UV Rays into your eyes. 
  • It is advised that you continue to wear sunglasses when overcast, as UV exposure is often very high in those conditions.
  • Even when wearing contact lenses that block UV, you will still require sunglasses as the contact lens only protects the area it covers and not the conjunctiva or skin around the eyes.
  • Large brim hats and visors can reduce up to 50% of UV and visible light.
  • Transitions or photochromatic lenses are not advised when skiing downhill as dangerous ice patches might appear invisible.
  • Cataracts are the leading cause of blindness in the world.

Macular degeneration is a medical condition which usually affects older adults and results in a loss of vision in the centre of the visual field (the macula) because of damage to the retina.

Increased use of electronic devices like tablets, smart phones and pc laptops which give of a sharp ‘blue light’ has raised concern for retinal health.


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Megan Goodman qualified as an optometrist from the University of Johannesburg. She has recently completed a Masters degree in Clinical Epidemiology at Stellenbosch University. She has a keen interest in ocular pathology and evidence based medicine as well as contact lenses.

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