With Spring just around the corner, now is the perfect time to invest in a new pair of sunglasses. From functional to fashionable, there are many different styles to choose from. Sunglasses are more than just an accessory though; the sun emits harmful UV rays which can cause a variety of eye conditions, from temporary pain to permanent blindness, even though it seems like the extent of the issue is having to squint when it gets a bit bright!
One of the risks of UV exposure to the eyes are cataracts. This is when the lens of the eye gets cloudy. It may start off symptomless, but as it progresses the symptoms may include cloudy/blurred vision, problems coping with bright light, and a change in your perception of colours (for example colours may seem washed out). Approximately 20% of all cataract cases are a result of extended UV exposure.
Another serious risk is pterygium – a condition where tissue grows over the whites of the eyes. This can alter the curve of the eyeball, which in turn causes astigmatism. Astigmatism is when the eye does not focus light evenly across the retina, which causes in blurred/distorted vision, along with headaches, trouble driving at night, and eyestrain.
Photokeratitis, more commonly known as snow blindness, can affect anyone who is exposed to UV rays. Symptoms include watery eyes, headache, eye pain, bloodshot eyes, eyelid twitching, hazy/distorted vision, a feeling of sand in the eyes, and in extreme cases the eyes may swell shut. This is caused by inflammation of the cornea through exposure to UV rays. This can cause temporary blindness, but in extreme cases of repeated exposure it can cause permanent vision loss.
One more possible risk is macular degeneration, which is a result of damage to the retina, with UV rays being a possible culprit. This damage destroys central vision, which presents itself as blurred or no vision in the centre of vision. Early on this condition is symptomless, but over time vision can worsen in one or both eyes. This condition can affect your ability to recognise faces, read, drive, and perform everyday tasks.
It is important to get regular eye tests, especially as you get older, as your optometrist will be able to pick up on UV damage, possibly before symptoms develop. The sooner any problems are discovered, the better the chance of reducing further damage.
When you are choosing sunglasses it is vital that you choose ones that block 99-100% of UVA and UVB rays. You can ensure you are getting the best for your eyes by going and speaking to your optometrist, and asking for their help in choosing a pair that suits your lifestyle. If you aren’t keen on traditional sunglasses, there are other options to choose from, such as clip on sunglasses and photo-reactive lenses. Clip on sunglasses can be fitted to your own pair of current glasses, whereas you can request photo-reactive lenses when purchasing a new pair.
For an eye test in the comfort of your own home please contact us at Community Care Opticians or call 0203 418 8488.