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Sun Protection – Part 2

Dr. Kristen Robinson of Saugeen Shores Family Eye Care answers questions about Sun Protection - Part 2

What type of sunglasses best protect from UV rays?

Any sunglass with UVA and UVB protective coatings will protect your eyes from UV rays. Polarized glasses also provide an added level of glare protection, which makes vision more comfortable, particularly for water sports.

I have heard about blue light being a concern as well. Can you talk a little bit about this and what it means for protecting your eyes?

Blue light has a slightly different wavelength than UV light. Few people are actually noticeably bothered by blue light and can experience eye irritation or headaches. Most people are able to ignore it; however, new studies have begun to investigate some of the long-term effects of exposure to excessive blue light.

Sometimes blue light and UVA are even termed "near UV". There are a large amount of commercial and industry displays that are lit with cool white fluorescent lights which emit light in the blue and ultraviolet ranges. More people are spending time in front of video display terminals (TVs, computers, electronic games) which produce blue light, and the early research has suggested that this is causing unnecessary harm to our eyes.

It was shown in some studies that high exposure to blue light caused changes in the retinal pigment epithelium layer in the eye. Due to the high concentration of pigment in this layer, it strongly absorbs blue light and is at risk becoming injured. We commonly refer to damage of the RPE in the macular area as macular degeneration.

Yellow filters (or tints), as well as special coatings are able to block out blue light. In our optical, we offer additional blue blocking coatings that aid in filtering out a large portion of blue light without the use of a yellow lens, as well as yellow filters for those who prefer them. You can also purchase UV screen filters that fit over display terminal or you can even choose to substitute warm white tubes or incandescent lamps in your home.

I have an infant, a toddler, and a teenager; should my kids be wearing sunglasses?

Yes, absolutely! I know many people laugh at the thought of putting their 6 month old infant in sunglasses, however this is a very crucial time in their development and appropriate measures need to be taken to protect their eyes early in their lives. UV protection is the most crucial before a child reaches 18-20 years old. The lens of the eye is a natural absorber of blue light and UV rays, only after around the age of 20. Up until this age, the lens allows UV or blue light into the eye. This is why it is so important for young children to wear sunglasses because we get 80% of our harmful UV exposure before the age of 18-20. (However, this doesn't mean that adults are off the hook! They still need to protect their eyes with prooper sunglasses as well). These absorption properties are in place to protect the retina from UV radiation throughout the majority of our adult lives. In the process of absorbing these rays the lens is at a much higher risk of developing cataracts, therefore over time, prolonged sun exposure can speed up the rate of cataract development.

I’ve heard of getting my skin sunburned, but can your eyes also get sunburned?

Yes they can! You can burn the skin around your eyes and your eyelids themselves, but you can also burn your cornea, the front surface of your eye. Many welders who have not been wearing eye protection have experienced a flash burn which feels like sandpaper in the eyes.

Do darker sunglasses mean better sun protection?

No, not necessarily. As long as the lenses have UVA and UVB protective coatings you will be getting the maximum sun protection. Polarized lenses give more protection from glare, particularly for very light-sensitive patients, and will almost always give a person more relief when in bright sunlight.

Does having a prescription make it harder to get the right sunglasses?

Not at all. The licensed opticians in our office are specially trained to find the proper frame and lenses for your needs. There are certain higher powered prescriptions which may require a specific type of frame style or lens type, however are opticians will always be able to find a sunglass that will look great on you and provide you with the UV protection you need!