How Your Contacts Can Protect Against UV Rays

Dec 05, 2014
Tagged with: How Your Contacts Can Protect Against UV Rays

As you are probably well-aware, it’s a good idea to shield your eyes from the damaging effects of UV rays. What you may not know, however, is that UV exposure to the eyes is cumulative, according the the American Optometric Association. The solar radiation coming from UV rays is concentrated by the cornea, and the rays that get through the pupil tend to be absorbed by the lens of your eye. Over time, this UV radiation builds up and can cause issues with your eyes such as cataracts, photokeratitis (sunburn of the eye) or age-related macular degeneration (AMD).

Sunglasses May Not Be Enough

While traditionally, the American Optometric Association has recommended that people wear sunglasses that block 99 to 100 percent of both UV-A and UV-B rays, they also realize that not everyone wears sunglasses all the time. Furthermore, both reflected and direct sunlight can still reach your eyes through the top, sides and bottom of your sunglasses. Called the peripheral light focusing effect, these rays might be even more damaging than those that are coming in from the front, claims Contact Lens Spectrum. Peripheral light may cause tissue elevations called pingueculea and pterygia, which can lead to a burning, itchy or gritty feeling.

Contact Lenses to the Rescue

Thankfully, there is another way to help protect your eyes from UV rays. Some types of contact lenses have been created to help absorb UV radiation and lessen the amount that gets to the surface of your eyes. And, contact lenses can protect the parts of the eye that are typically missed by sunglasses.

The first contact lenses that featured UV protection were made of hydrogel, but now both hydrogel lenses and rigid gas permeable lenses are available. This increase in product selection means it’s now easier than ever for people to find contacts that will help to protect their eyes against UV rays.

Not All Contacts Help

Generally speaking, contact lenses that protect the eyes from the damaging rays of the sun are labeled as Class 1 or Class 2. Class 1 lenses block 90 percent of UV-A rays and 99 to 100 percent of UV-B rays whereas Class 2 lenses block 70 percent of UV-A and 95 percent of UV-B. Contacts that are not marked as Class 1 or 2 do not provide protection against UV rays. Currently, the lenses that are classified as Class 1 include Acuvue Oasys, Acuvue Advance and Acuvue Advance for Astigmatism.

The Best Approach

To successfully block as many UV-A and UV-B rays as possible, Fox News suggests a multi-faceted approach. The article explains that instead of just relying on sunglasses or UV-protecting contact lenses, you should use both to keep your eyes as healthy as possible. UV-blocking lenses worn with sunglasses and a wide-brimmed hat will help to keep as many UV rays as possible from reaching your eyes. The extra precaution will be worth it when your eyes stay healthy throughout your life.

Author: Gizelle Lachey