To encourage patients to protect their eyes at all times, it’s important for them to understand the threat that UV poses and the best ways to minimize it. Following are insights on the topic of UV protection to help facilitate a discussion with patients.
- Exposure to UV radiation is associated with a number of eye diseases and disorders. Approximately 3.2 million go blind every year due to prolonged UV exposure. UV is linked to cataracts, macular degeneration, pingueculae and pterygia and photokeratitis.
- Sunlight reflected off of water, snow and pavement intensifies UV exposure and makes it more dangerous. UV levels are greater in wide open spaces, especially when highly reflective surfaces are present, like sand and snow (UV exposure nearly doubles when reflected off of snow).
- There are many options to be aware of for UV protection for the eyes. Wide-brimmed hats and sunglasses that block UV can be worn by anyone. Eyeglasses wearers may also choose prescription sunglasses that blocks UV, but eyeglass lenses don’t have to be tinted to provide UV protection. Although tinting provides comfort and protection from bright light, and some tints block UV rays, clear eyeglass lenses can protect against UV as well if the material used blocks UV (like those made from Trivex material do). Similarly, not all tinted lenses provide UV protection; and tinted glasses without UV protection cause more harm. Contact lenses that absorb UV radiation can further protect the eye from radiation that comes from above or around the sides of glasses.
Not all eyeglass lens materials provide UV protection at the same level. Not all lens materials have the same UV cut-off point, which is the wavelength at which the material ceases to transmit ultraviolet radiation. For instance, Trivex lens material filters out the harmful UV-A and UV-B wavelengths naturally thereby providing 100 percent UV blockage up to 394nm, while a basic plastic lens material provides only 89 percent UV protection. From a practical dispensing point of view, all lenses should provide 100 percent protection against UVA and UVB radiation, with a target UV cut-off of at least 380nm.