Invisible UV rays aren’t just harmful to your skin but can cause short- and long-term damage to your eyes, too. Excessive exposure of your eyes to the sun can cause sunburn-like inflammation to the cornea, which is the clear, protective outer layer of the eye. This inflammation is known as a condition called photokeratitis. Long-term UV exposure is believed to exacerbate age-related macular degeneration — a condition that causes vision loss in the centre of the visual field — and is also linked to cataracts.1
Long-wave ultraviolet (UVA) and short-wave ultraviolet B (UVB) rays both come from sunlight. UVA rays can penetrate the cornea and reflect onto the retina, which in turn, can harm your central vision — our field of vision when we look straight ahead. UVB rays are absorbed by the front of the eye but are just as harmful.2 The symptoms of too much exposure to these UV rays might include headaches; gritty, red or swollen eyes; sensitivity to light; and blurry vision.
To protect your eyes from UV rays, you can wear sunglasses or contact lenses with UV-blocking technology.
What does UV blocking mean?
UV blocking simply means blocking ultraviolet light from entering your eyes. Think of it as sunscreen, but for your eyes. Sunglasses and contact lenses that offer a safe level of UV protection will sport the CE mark or be certified according to the British Standard (standard number BS EN ISO 12312-1:2013). 1
Are UV contact lenses safe?
UV contact lenses contain a UV-blocking ingredient that is incorporated into the material of the lens itself. But while UV contact lenses work very well as a safety measure against the sun’s harmful rays, it’s important to note that contact lenses don’t provide complete UV protection — not all ultraviolet rays can be blocked out with contact lenses alone.
Should I wear UV-blocking contact lenses with sunglasses?
Yes, it’s best to wear UV-protection sunglasses in addition to UV-blocking lenses to be on the safe side. Note, however, that not all sunglasses offer the same level of protection. Look for those carrying the required safety marks.
There is a risk of eye injury at my workplace. Can I still wear contact lenses?
Check with your employer or work safety officer to see if there’s a policy in place about prescription eyewear. In most environments where injury to the eyes is possible, it’s ok to wear contact lenses, provided you also wear adequate safety goggles.
In the case of welding, note that artificial UV light will be given off by the equipment, so the right kind of eye protection is a necessity. Safety glasses for welding must conform to British and European standards.3
What contact lenses have UV-blocking protection?
These days, many contact lenses contain UV filters. At Specsavers, we stock several UV contact lens brands. Here’s a selection:
- 1-Day ACUVUE® Moist – these are very comfortable, single-use lenses with a UV filter and handling tint included. They offer a good level of UV protection at an affordable price.
- 1-Day ACUVUE® Oasys – as well as a UV blocker and handling tint, these single-use lenses are made using silicone hydrogel, a material that allows the eye to receive more oxygen. Those who are prone to dry, gritty eyes may benefit from these.
- easyvision Daily Serima Sphere – single-use lenses that include a UV blocker and handling tint. They are made from silicone hydrogel. These offer great value and would be an excellent choice for users who need maximum comfort without breaking the bank.
- easyvision Daily Clearus – moist and comfortable single-use lenses with a UV filter included. These offer outstanding value, so they’re ideal for those on a budget who don’t want to wear glasses.
To see our full range of UV contact lenses, head over to our contact lens section, or book an appointment with one of our friendly opticians for more information.
1. The College of Optometrists. (No date). Sun and ultraviolet (UV) light. The College of Optometrists. [Online]. Available at: https://lookafteryoureyes.org/... [Accessed 22 Nov 2019].
2. Prevent Blindness. (No date). How can UV rays damage your eyes? Prevent Blindness. Available at: https://www.preventblindness.o... [Accessed 22 Nov 2019].
3. HSENI. (2018). Welding and flame cutting. Health and Safety Executive. Available at: https://www.hseni.gov.uk/publi... [Accessed 22 Nov 2019].