I never realized how important eye health was until a friend of mine ended up with a horrible eye infection, which lead to a corneal transplant and loss of vision in one eye. It all happened so quick, and made me realize something I already knew but took for granted: we only have one set of eyes, and we need to take care of them from a young age. This is when I decided that when I had kids, I would ensure their eyes were well protected from UV exposure early on. Have you ever tried to keep sunglasses on kids? It’s hard – but so vital to their eye health. Since my kids are resistant to sunglasses, I try to put hats on them that will shade their eyes and prevent too much sun exposure.
When it comes to my own eyes, I have to take extra steps to ensuring my eye health. I started wearing glasses when I was a senior in high school, and at almost 18 you can imagine the difficulty I had transitioning to glasses. I loved that I could finally see the world around me, but I was uncomfortable. I decided to wear contacts a few months later, and haven’t looked back since. After trying just about everything on the market, I decided on a lens that would provide me with all day comfort, and UV protection. Granted, you still have to wear sunglasses even when your contacts provide you with some UV protection, but it was nice to know there was an added perk to my lenses. Keeping contact lenses clean is so important too. If you are a contact lens wearer, then I’m sure your doctor has explained that germs can get trapped between your eye and the lens, so it is important to disinfect them daily. My ophthalmologist recommended I switch to daily wear contacts, but they did not provide all day comfort for me. This is a case by case basis – just because they didn’t work for me doesn’t mean they will not work for you. He felt that by wearing a fresh pair of lenses each day would minimize the chance of infection and bacteria growth. Speaking of bacteria growth, this is how my friend ended up with an eye infection. She did not properly clean her contacts, and admitted to doing so when her eye issues began. She said she cleaned her contacts religiously and took them out every night. One night she stayed at a friend’s house and slept in her contacts and this is when her eye problems started. Now, I’m not saying that you will get an eye infection if you sleep in your contacts, but many people do not properly care for their contacts. Check out Contact Lenses: Tips for Proper Wear & Care for more information.
UV protection in contact lenses is important. Two Acuvue brand lenses offer UV blocking and comfortable wear. Acuvue Oasys and 1-Day Acuvue TruEye. Did you know that UV rays can actually bounce off surfaces and enter your eye? So, even if you aren’t staring directly at the sun, you can still have dangerous UV rays hitting your eyes. Take precautions, even during the winter, to ensure your eyes stay healthy for your entire life. Find out more at The Sun & Your Eyes: What You Need to Know
Here are some tips from HealthyWomen.org “Eye Health Center” for keeping your eyes protected:
Protect Your Eyes From the Sun
- Remember that direct sunlight isn’t the only threat to your eyes. Reflected UV rays can also be harmful. For example, fresh snow reflects as much as 80 percent of UV radiation; dry sand about 15 percent; and sea foam about 25 percent. And, because you’re more likely to look down than up, more UV light is reflected directly into your eyes. Hats with brims offer no protection from reflected UV rays.
- The time of day and time of year influence the severity of harmful UV rays. Because the eye is naturally shaded by the brow ridge when the sun is high in the sky, the highest ultraviolet radiation exposure for eyes is in the morning and mid-afternoon, rather than at noon, as it is for skin. Sun exposure to the eyes also tends to be more constant in fall, winter and spring when the sun is lower in the sky.
- Wear sunglasses that limit UVB and UVA rays to no more than 1 percent transmission. Look for glasses labeled as blocking at least 99 percent of UV rays.
- Choose sunglasses with lenses large enough to completely cover the eye and prevent as much light as possible from entering the eyes by getting around the edges of the glasses. Wrap-around sunglasses are best.
- Select darker lenses, particularly if your eyes are light sensitive. Gray lenses offer less color distortion than other color lenses, though no more protection.
- If you wear contact lenses, ask your eye care professional about UV protection. Contact lenses that offer UV protection are classified as class 1 or class 2, with class 1 providing the highest levels of UV protection. For example, all Acuvue Brand Contact Lenses offer either class 1 or class 2 UV-blocking, and among contact lens brands, only Acuvue Oasys Brand Contact Lenses and 1-Day Acuvue TruEye Brand Contact Lenses offer the highest level of UV blocking available in a contact lens, blocking more than 90 percent of UVA rays and 99 percent of UVB rays that reach the cornea. Although UV-blocking contact lenses are beneficial in helping to protect against harmful UV rays, clinical studies have not been done to show that they directly reduce the risk of any specific eye disease or condition.
- Remember, more is better when it comes to protecting your eyes from the sun. If you’re planning to be out in the sun, protect your eyes with a combination of quality sunglasses, UV-blocking contact lenses, and a wide-brimmed hat.
This resource was developed with the support of VISTAKON® Division of Johnson & Johnson Vision Care, Inc.