The Importance of UV Protection in Contact Lenses

We’re all aware of the harm that UV rays can cause on your skin, but did you know that those same risks apply to your eyes? Excessive exposure to UV rays can actually cause short and long-term damage to your eyesight, so it’s important that you protect yourself when you’re out and about. Here’s why choosing contact lenses with UV protection is so essential for your ocular health. 

What Is UV light?

UV is the shortened term for Ultraviolet Light. Violet is the shortest wavelength of visible light, and the term Ultraviolet refers to the fact that there are even shorter wavelengths of this type of light. There are three types of UV radiation – UVA, UVB and UVC. The latter is harmless, as it’s absorbed by the ozone layer, but UVA and UVB radiation can lead to serious health issues and can damage our vision. 

UV light isn’t all bad – it’s how we produce vitamin D when we come into contact with sunlight and it can be of benefit to the skin, in small doses. But prolonged exposure to UV rays can be incredibly damaging, causing a range of issues including:

  • Photokeratitis, which is essentially sunburn to the eyes and causes pain, teras, twitching of the eyelids and light sensitivity 
  • Pterygium, a result of long-term exposure to UV rays which can cause abnormal growths of the conjunctive over the white area of your eyes. It can be a problem for surfers as they spend a large amount of time exposed to sun, wind and sand, but anyone who is exposed to UV light for long periods of time can develop this condition
  • Cataracts
  • Macular degeneration, which can be accelerated by UV rays
  • Certain eye cancers, including eye melanomas.

Just like our skin, our eyes can be damaged by sunlight in even a short period of time if we don’t take proper care. The lens, cornea and retinas are most at risk of damage from UV rays, which is where UV-blocking products can be beneficial. 

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What Is UV Blocking?

UV blocking means that the UV light can’t penetrate your skin or your eyes. While we would normally use sunscreen for our skin, and this should be a priority for the rest of our body, this obviously isn’t possible for our eyes. Sunglasses and UV-blocking contact lenses are the best way to protect our eyes from UV light on a day-to-day basis, preventing these harmful rays from penetrating the eyes and causing damage. 

Are UV Contact Lenses Safe?

UV lenses contain a UV-blocking agent that is included in the actual lens itself, so while they prevent a large proportion of UV rays from damaging the eyes, they don’t deliver complete protection as not all UV rays can be blocked just from contact lenses. So, UV-blocking lenses are safe but it’s still important to take additional precautions to protect your vision as much as possible. 

This means avoiding spending too long outdoors when the sun is at its highest and brightest, protecting your face with a wide-brimmed hat and wearing wrap-around sunglasses when you’re outside to minimise how much UV light your eyes are exposed to. 

The Benefits Of UV-Blocking Contact Lenses

UV rays are incredibly harmful, especially when you’re exposed to them for long periods of time. UV-blocking lenses provide a convenient way of ensuring that your eyes are protected when you’re outdoors, with the added benefit of enabling you to comfortably wear sunglasses for added protection. UV lenses can mitigate some of the risks associated with UV rays, preventing long-term vision problems, cataracts and cancers. 

UV-blocking lenses should be a big consideration for anyone who spends long periods of time outdoors, such as people leading an active lifestyle, as well as those who partake in outdoor sports or people who live in sunnier climates. If you’re someone who travels abroad a lot, UV-blocking lenses are a convenient way of protecting your eyesight when you’re travelling to sunny locations. 

Even on cloudy, overcast days, UV rays are still a risk, so wearing daily UV-blocking lenses will give you peace of mind that you’re protecting your eyesight at a basic level. Reflected light can also be an issue, such as light reflected from snow, sand or water. This intensifies sun exposure, so protection is essential – UV lenses can help with this, ensuring that whether you’re on the beach, skiing in the mountains or boating on a lake, your eyes are safe from harmful rays. 

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Which Brands Offer UV Contact Lenses?

Several contact lens brands offer UV-blocking lenses, so you can find options to suit your budget. Acuvue are a renowned lens brand that provide comfortable, moisturising lenses – within their range, they stock several UV options, including Acuvue Moist and Acuvue Oasys which have UV blockers with handling tints for a good level of protection from harmful rays. 

But if you don’t want to use Acuvue lenses, there are others on the market that provide UV-blockers within their lens range, such as Clariti, so it is worth speaking to your optician to determine the best option for your eyes. 

Final Thoughts

Protecting your vision is critical; UV-blocking contact lenses provide the convenience of lenses with the added protection against sunlight. There are numerous high-quality brands providing UV lenses, so you can find the right one for your budget and comfort levels. 

Naturally, lenses aren’t a one-stop product, and you still need to take extra precautions when you’re outdoors. Ensure that your skin is protected by a high SPF sunscreen, that you avoid the sun between 10am and 2pm (when it’s at its highest) and that you choose a hat that offers protection for your face and shoulders. Coupled with sunglasses, you’ll be in the best position to enjoy the sunshine without it damaging your skin or eyes.