So you've stocked up on sun cream and are drinking water like there's no tomorrow, but have you thought about protecting your eyes? Yes, your eyes. Too much exposure to UV-radiation can cause both discomfort and damage, and the longer you spend in the sun the greater the risks of developing eye conditions later in life. Age-related cataracts and premature degeneration of the cornea are among the possible outcomes, as is blurred vision or even blindness in extreme cases.
While most people rush to invest in a pair of decent sunglasses and a wide-brimmed hat, others are lucky enough to find that they already have UV-protection built into their regular vision correction devices, namely their contact lenses.
The first ever contact lens material to incorporate a UV-blocking agent was Galyfilcon A, which has received the World Council of Optometry's global seal of acceptance for UV-protection. This is a material which suits adults and children alike, and as around 80% of the UV exposure of a lifetime tends to occur during the childhood years and teens, parents are recommended to fit their kids with both high-quality sunglasses and UV-blocking contact lenses if suitable. Surprisingly enough, damage can be done even when it is seemingly dark out, and protection should be worn as often as possible.
These days, many contact lenses include UV-blocking agents to some degree. The most sophisticated UV-protection can be found in Ciba Vision's Precision UV and Johnson & Johnson's Acuvue Advance and Acuvue Oasys. A good UV-blocking agent fights over 90% of UVA rays and nearly 100% of UVB rays.
According to a recent study by the American Optometrist Association (AOA), most Americans still put price and style before quality UV-protection when buying sunglasses, despite the fact that one third knew that UV rays could cause a lot of damage including temporary blindness. 46% of participants were in need of some kind of vision correction and had at some stage tried glasses or contact lenses with UV-protection.
While contact lenses only protect the part of the eyes they cover, sunglasses are flawed too in their protection as peripheral rays often find their way in behind the lens. Likewise, there are pros and cons to different type of contact lens wear, as soft contacts tend to cover and protect a larger area of the eye while RGP lenses block UV light more efficiently.
Even if your eye sight is perfect at present, using double protection is recommended as this will promote long-lasting eye health. If for example you are considering contact lens wear for aesthetic purposes, invest in a brand with UV-protection and kill two birds with one stone. And whatever you do, don't forget the all-important straw hat when you're off to the beach.