Extended exposure to the sun’s UV rays has been linked to eye damage, so to protect your eyes from solar radiation, your sunglasses should block 100 per cent of UV rays and also absorb most high energy visible (HEV) rays. Frames should be a close fitting wraparound style, which provide the best protection as they limit how much stray sunshine reaches your eyes from above and beyond the periphery of your sunglasses lenses.
Other top tips include:
• Stay out of the direct sun as much as possible, wear a brimmed hat or a cap and wear only good quality sunglasses with the CE British Standards mark BSEN 1836:1997 if possible, or local equivalent
• Sunglasses sold under BS 2724 have a shade number which relates to the amount of UV light allowed through. The higher the number, the better.
• Neutral grey or brown lenses are good as they have less effect on the way we see colours,
• Some pink or blue tints can distort colours and are not recommended for driving.
• Photochromic lenses that automatically go darker in the sun are also very good
There are three main types of UV rays:
UVC – These are the highest energy UV rays and could be the most harmful to your eyes and skin, but the ozone layer blocks almost all UVC rays. This can cause damage to the cornea and the lens.
UVB – These rays are filtered partially by the ozone layer, but some still reach the earth’s surface. These can cause damage to the lens and cause ‘welders eye’ which feels like sand in the eye.
UVA – These can pass through the cornea and reach the lens and retina inside the eye. Overexposure has been linked to certain types of cataracts and may play a role in the development of macular degeneration.
HEV rays penetrate deeply into the eye and can cause retinal damage.
It is not only proximity to the equator that increases the risk from UV rays. Levels are greater at altitudes, when the sun is high in the sky during the middle of the day, in wide open spaces and when the sun reflects off snow and sand. Interestingly, UV exposure can also be high even on hazy days as it penetrates clouds.
There are a number of problems that UV rays cause. UVB rays in particular can cause cataracts which is a clouding of the eye’s natural lens; macular degeneration is a leading cause of vision loss for older people; Pterygium is a growth that begins on the white of the eye and may involve the cornea, the growth may block vision; and skin cancer around the eyelids is also linked to prolonged UV exposure.
With nearly 30 years experience of supporting the international business community worldwide and clients from 86 nationalities in 121 countries, MediCare International is a major provider of health insurance for expats across the world. Managing director Debbie Purser comments, “Most expatriate insurance plans will not cover you for gradual degradation of eyesight, so it is vital that you take your own steps to ensure your eyes are protected. Insurance will generally cover accidents involving your eyes, though.
At MediCare International, we strongly support the notion that prevention is better than cure when it comes to something as important as your eyes, though.