This festive season, whether you’ll be enjoying some well-earned downtime at the beach, on the ski slopes, or simply enjoying the peace of home, be sure to give your eyes a break too, by protecting them from the damaging effects of UV.
The sun’s ultraviolet (UV) light rays may be invisible to the eye, but their effects on the human body – such as premature skin aging and skin cancer – are anything but.
Yet while most people know the importance of slathering on the sunscreen and wearing a hat when outdoors, they are often unaware of the damage being done to their eyes by the harsh African sun: irritated, swollen and red eyes in the short term, cataracts and macular degeneration that could affect vision in the long term.
PROTECTING YOUR EYES
Here are some tips to protect your eyes from damaging UV this holiday season.
- Wear sunglasses …
Just 15 minutes in the sun can damage your eyes, so wear sunglasses every time you go outdoors.
… but not just any sunglasses …
Just because they’re dark glasses, doesn’t mean they have UV protection. Look for a “UV400” sticker to be sure you’re being protected from 100% of both UVA and UVB rays. Preferably choose wraparound sunglasses or glasses with large lenses and UV-protective side panels.
- Prescription plus protection
While UVB rays are deflected by glass, the longer wavelength UVA rays pass though easily, so don’t think your prescription eyewear is protection enough. Instead, purchase prescription UV-blocking sunglasses or choose photochromic glass for your lenses, which darkens when exposed to UV.
Cutting UV with contacts
Contact lens wearers can add an extra layer of protection by wearing UV-blocking lenses in addition to their sunglasses. Eyesupply.co.za, South Africa’s largest online supplier of contact lenses, advises using a Class 1 contact lens, which will block 96% of UVA rays and 100% of UVB rays. Look for brands like Johnson & Johnson’s Acuvue or CooperVision’s Clariti, available with free delivery from Eyesupply.co.za
Top it off with a hat
Whatever UV-filtering eyewear you choose, add a hat to your arsenal. A hat not only protects your face from UV damage, but gives added protection to eyes, preventing sunlight from coming in around the edges of sunglasses.
- Don’t forget the kids
As with UV damage to the skin, most of the harm done to eyes happens in childhood. Kids are exposed to significantly more UV than adults – as much as three times the annual adult dose, according to Dr Justin Bazan, medical advisor to The Vision Council in the US. Make sure your children wear sunglasses from an early age.
Come rain or shine
Clouds are no match for UV. While an overcast day will expose your eyes to less UV than a sunny one, don’t leave your sunglasses at home when you’re out and about. Similarly, continue to wear your sunglasses when outdoors during winter.
- Get your timing right
The Vision Council warns against being outdoors without eye protection between 2 p.m. and 4 p.m. when UV exposure is at its highest.
Stick to shade …
… but don’t forget about reflected light. While being out of direct sunlight will significantly cut down on your UV exposure, remember that most surfaces reflect UV rays. Water, for example, reflects 100% of the UV rays that strike it. If you’re planning on spending time beside the pool or on the beach this holiday, take extra precautions to protect your eyes from reflected light.
For an extensive range of UV-blocking contact lenses go to www.eyesupply.co.za . And if you find these lenses cheaper anywhere else, Eyesupply will match any authorised price. Ordering is easy and convenient and delivery is free, leaving you time to relax this holiday season.