The sun is sneaky and ultraviolet (UV) radiation in Australia is strong enough to cause sunburn in as little as 11 minutes on a clear summer day.1 But it’s not just your skin you should be showing some support this summer, your eyes need protection too.
When asked about sun protection for eyes, especially coming up to the sunnier months, OPSM Optometrist Lucas Lister insists sunglasses should be worn at all times when outside. “A common misconception is out of sight, out of mind” he says. “However, cloudy days can register just as high UV levels as sunny ones so it’s important to always keep your sunglasses on – even when the sun is hiding.” Lister urges.
A note from OPSM on UV
Whilst there are some benefits to sun exposure such as increased vitamin D production, it’s important to take appropriate skin and eye protection against harmful UV rays. To prevent the possibility of long-term eye damage due to continued unprotected exposure to the sun, sunglasses are recommended.
“UV levels can record up to three times2 higher during the summer months and the damage is irreversible. Repeated exposure can lead to serious eye conditions such as cataracts, skin cancer of the eyelids and macular degeneration.”
“The quality of your sunglasses matters – and it’s all in the lenses. Make sure they block UVA and UVB rays, then you can be confident they offer the necessary protection. It’s also important to remember that choosing a dark lens doesn’t mean they protect your eyes from sun damage.” said Lister.
Common symptoms such as discomfort or redness in the eyes can indicate signs of UV exposure. Other symptoms include:
Blurry vision up close
A gritty sensation
Cumulative long-term UV exposure can cause conditions such as cataracts and macular degeneration. Early signs of UV damage can often be detected by an optometrist before you start to show symptoms. Therefore, it’s important to have regular eye tests to ensure early detection and diagnosis.
Optometrist tips to protect eyes from UV damage
Lucas Lister’s top tips to protect eyes from UV damage:
- Ensure your sunglasses are at least 2 or 3 rating by the Australian and New Zealand Sunglass Standards for UV protection3
- Don't be fooled by a cloudy day; the sun's rays can still pass through clouds
- Wear a hat with your sunglasses to give you even more protection
Never look directly at the sun, even during an eclipse, as it can cause damage to the eye's retina
Ensure your kids have the proper protection so their eyes aren’t exposed at a young age as sun damage is cumulative3
If you’d like to have your eyes assessed for UV damage visit your nearest OPSM or opsm.com.au to make an appointment with an optometrist.
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1Sun Safety-Cancer Org
2Is it okay to buy glasses from the chemist or service station? –
Good Vision for Life (Optometry Australia) (2021)
3Impact of UV Exposure on children's eye health –
This article contains general information only and does not take into account the health, personal situation or needs of any person. In conjunction with your GP or treating health care professional, please consider whether the information is suitable for you and your personal circumstances.