Protecting Your Eyes from Sun-Rays

Summer's here and the beach beckons. You've detoxed, body brushed and moisturized your skin in excited anticipation. You plan your summer getaways and outdoor adventures, pull out your summer clothes, buy lots of sunscreen and slap it on ever so often. But this isn't where safety ends this summer. It is the potentially harmful Ultra Violet (UV) rays of the sun that you need to watch out for, which can damage the long-term health of your eyes (laboratory studies have shown UV radiation as a causal factor for cataract) and the delicate skin surrounding them.

UV radiation can play a contributory role in the development of various ocular disorder, including age-related cataract, pterygium, cancer of skin around eyelids and photokeratitis. In fact, the eye may be at a greater risk from the sun than the skin. The skin has the capacity to adapt to UV radiation by producing melanin (tan) that protects against UV exposure. The eye does not develop a tolerance to UV rays, but becomes more sensitive with repeated exposure, and the effect on the eye is cumulative. It is important to note that reflective UV light, or glare from water, sand, snow and even the road can also have a debilitating effect on the eye. And even on cloudy days, up to 80 per cent of UV rays can pass through. So, the importance of protecting your eyes from UV exposure should not be overlooked, whatever the weather.

The natural reaction of the eye when exposed to direct or reflective light is to squint, as it tries to block out the glare, which is at best uncomfortable, and at worst squinting not only causes eye fatigue but also encourages the development of unsightly facial fine lines and wrinkles. Not particularly eye-catching!

Other cosmetic UV damage to the skin around eyes, otherwise known as "photo ageing", manifests itself as dryness, sagging or loss of elasticity and mottled pigmentation. More seriously, the WHO estimates that 20 per cent of cataracts are primarily due to sun damage, and excessive UV exposure has resulted in the development of skin cancers, of which 10 per cent occur on the eyelids.

Hence appropriate eyewear and hats are not just fashion accessories but are essential. It is important to ensure that one invests good quality eyewear that blocks 100 per cent UV radiation. People who wear prescription glasses need not fret. They do not have to alternate between prescription glasses and sunglasses as they move around. Today, the market has photrochromic lenses (variable tint) which automatically adjust to the level of UV light they are exposed to, going from exceptionally clear indoors to sunglass dark outdoors.

The UV rays blocking eyeglasses provide the most complete and convenient eyewear to shield the eye from the harmful effects of the UV rays of the sun. While most prescription lenses offer some UV ray protection, not all are equally effective.

Use plastic photochromic lenses that block 100 per cent UV radiation and enhance visual comfort by preventing eye fatigue by reducing glare. Plastic photochromic lenses optimize visual clarity by allowing just the right amount of light to reach the eye. These lenses transition from clear to dark quickly when you move form indoor to outdoor and fade back just as fast when you move indoors from outdoors.

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