Where can I find glasses for the whole family that provide UV protection all year round?
I noticed quite early on that my eldest needed glasses. His eyes would turn inwards when he was concentrating on a book or the TV, and he would squint to focus on something far away. It was not until he was in reception that I realised that something needed to be done about his eyesight because he was losing focus in the class and the inward turn in his eye was getting worse. We got through with some cheap glasses for a few years (after he had lost his designer glasses within a week of having them fitted) and it dawned on me that, as he was wearing his glasses full time now (in Year 3), he wasn’t wearing sunglasses to protect his eyes, which meant he would still squint in the sun. This bothered me. So, I tried to find a pair of glasses that also offered full UV protection and stumbled upon a webinar one day about ZEISS’ new UVProtect lenses which offer maximum UVA and UVB support. I took this webinar as a sign and looked for opticians that sold ZEISS’ new lens technology. I found a quaint private optician in St Albans and, after having Aron fitted with the new UVProtect lenses, I noticed a massive difference in his eyes almost straight away. He started to lose the grey circles around his eyes (most likely from straining) and he wasn’t squinting anymore.
So, ZEISS’ new UVProtect lenses have inspired me to write an article on the importance of protecting your eyes from the intense UV rays.
Why do we need to protect our eyes from the sun?
Ultraviolet (UV) radiation is around us every day of the year, even during winter and in overcast conditions. Long-term exposure to UV radiation can damage your skin, causing wrinkles, sunspots & skin cancers. However, not many people realise that UV exposure can also be harmful to the eyes and the surrounding skin. To protect our skin, we can wear sun cream. To protect our eyes, we can wear sunglasses, but wearing sunglasses in the summer is not enough to keep your eyes in good health. You should be protecting your eyes from harmful UV radiation all year round to prevent accelerated ageing, as well as eye disorders such as cataracts and eyelid skin cancers. This article will talk about UV radiation and where you can find glasses for the whole family that provide UV protection all year round.
What exactly is UV radiation?
UV radiation is high-energy radiation that sits between the x-ray and visible light part of the electromagnetic spectrum. Most UV radiation that we are exposed to comes from sunlight. Radiation has varying wavelengths, and the one that concerns us in this article is UVA. UVA radiation ranges from 315 to 400 nanometers (nm), and a proportion of UV radiation is blocked by the ozone layer. However, most UVA radiation is transmitted through the ozone layer and reaches us on the ground. Some UV exposure can be beneficial, for example,, it triggers Vitamin D production; however UV exposure also has harmful effects on skin and eyes.
UV radiation exposure
Sometimes UV radiation hazards such as artificial light sources can cause immediate damage to the skin and eyes, which heals in time. Most people are exposed to natural UV radiation from the sun during their everyday life. The amount of UV radiation your eye is exposed to depends on many factors, including where you live, the amount of time you spend outside and the weather. Unlike for skin, where the risk of UV damage is highest around noon, the peak times for eye exposure are mid-morning and mid-afternoon.
Children’s eyes are particularly susceptible to UV damage due to their larger pupils and more sensitive tissue. The effects of UV exposure in childhood does not become apparent until later in life.
Potential damage and disease caused by UV radiation
Damage caused by UV radiation can be divided into chronic and acute injury. Acute damage happens during short, intense UV exposure and can be painful and irritating, resulting in a temporary change to the skin or surface of the eye that will heal completely. Chronic damage is caused by much lower levels of exposure over a long period of time. Chronic damage happens slowly, and people are unlikely to notice any changes occurring. Chronic conditions include:
Photoaging of the eyelids
The long wavelengths of the UV radiation penetrate the thickest part of the skin and damage the collagen, causing more wrinkles to appear around the eyes
Skin cancers of the eyelid
Eyelid cancers account for 5 – 10% of all skin cancers, and because of the local anatomy, may easily spread.
A pinguecula is a thickened deposit of fat, protein and calcium that is visible over the white of the eye. Unless it grows, it usually is only an unsightly cosmetic problem
These are the most common cancers of the eye.
UV radiation can change the lens of the eye, leading to cataracts. The early signs are a loss of contrast and muted colours. Cataracts can severely compromise vision.
Is there a solution?
Sunglasses can be worn to protect our eyes from the harmful effects of UV radiation, however wearing sunglasses is not always practical or desirable, particularly on cloudy days. Even when it is sunny, 54% of adults across the UK say they never or only sometimes wear sunglasses. This suggests that a large population of Brits are at risk of long-term damage to their eyes.
Experts recommend applying suncream to the eyelids to provide UV protection. Unfortunately, people don’t often apply cream to the eyelids as it can irritate the eye area.
Some people believe that their glasses are providing full protection from UV radiation when this is often not the case.
Many clear plastic lenses do not offer full UV protection
Glasses are able to provide eye and eyelid protection from UV radiation, depending on lens size, lens material and the distance to the face.
Current industry standards for lens manufacturing only require a minimum level of UV protection up to 380 nanometers (nm). However, the World Health Organization define UV radiation as up to 400 nm, which covers the full UVA range. UV radiation between 380 & 400 nm accounts for almost 40% of the UV radiation that reaches earth and penetrates the skin more deeply. Therefore, just providing UV protection to 380 nm means that most clear lenses do not offer full protection from the UV radiation up to 400 nm, potentially putting eye health at risk. Manufacturing lenses to provide UV protection up to 400 nm is tricky and costly for lens manufacturers, so the ophthalmic industry has continued to manufacture lenses according to the minimum requirement of UV protection up to 380 nm, up until the launch of ZEISS UVProtect lenses.
ZEISS now offers 400 nm UV protection on plastic spectacles lenses
ZEISS, an internationally leading technology enterprise that develops produces and distributes spectacle lenses, has now found ways to modify their clear lenses to ensure that glasses wearers have full UV protection without negatively impacting their visual experience. This is a monumental change because ZEISS’ clear, plastic all-day spectacle lenses now offer the same UV protection (up to 400 nm) as premium sunglasses.
“UV radiation is always present, even on cloudy days, and it can have a serious impact on the health of the eyes and the surrounding skin, with organisations such as the World Health Organization (WHO) defining the need to block UV rays up to 400 nm. With ZEISS UVProtect technology, spectacle wearers can be assured that all clear ZEISS lenses offer full UV protection to the eyes and surrounding skin, without compromising clarity.” Dr Debbie Laughton, Head of Professional Services at Carl Zeiss Vision UK.
ZEISS UVProtect lenses include a UV absorber to absorb UV entering through the front of the lens, in combination with an enhanced back surface anti-reflection coating that reduces UV radiation reflected from the back surface of the lens into the eye.
The image above is taken with a UV camera. The left lens provides partial UV protection and appears completely transparent because UV radiation has passed through the lens and reached the eye and surrounding skin. Whereas, on the right side, a ZEISS UVProtect lens is worn, which is actually clear, however, appears opaque with a UV camera because it is blocking UV radiation from being transmitted through the lens and reaching the eye and surrounding skin.
Where can I find full UV radiation protection glasses for the family all year round?
Prescription ZEISS UVProtect lenses are available across the full range of ZEISS lenses, including varifocals, and are suitable for all the family. Children will especially benefit from wearing ZEISS UVProtect lenses as they are particularly susceptible to UV damage.
Whatever your age, it is never too late to start protecting your eyes from harmful UV radiation. Without a doubt, prevention is the best cure, and with ZEISS UVProtect lenses now providing sunglass-level UV protection in all their clear plastic lenses, it’s so easy to protect your eyes from UV radiation all day, every day.
*In collaboration with ZEISS*