People who wear sunglasses all year round are not doing it simply for the cool-factor, they are actually being supersensible and looking after their health according to eye experts.
While sunglasses are currently more synonymous with Winter Love Island stars recently basking in the bright South African sun or friends’ posts on Instagram enjoying a wintery escape to the slopes, researchers at Essilor.co.uk have issued new advice on why protecting eyes from UV light is an all-year-round necessity – yes even in UK storms!
Dr Andy Hepworth from Essilor.co.uk says: “Overexposure to UV light can be detrimental to your eye health over time. Even though UV rays can be weaker in the winter, it can still have a negative impact on your vision and eye health.
“The impact of excess UV light on eyes can include premature ageing, cataracts and macular degeneration.”
Macular degeneration (AMD)
Macular degeneration causes blurring of the central vision (when focussing straight ahead). The macular is a tiny part of the retina, which when it starts to deteriorate, affects sight. Primarily age-related, UV light has been found to increase the risk of developing the condition earlier on.
The skin around the eyes is seven times thinner than that on the rest of the face and is often easily irritated by heavier creams that include an SPF. Lenses that protect against UV rays will help to prevent premature ageing of the skin around the eyes, helping to combat fine lines and wrinkles, not least because they prevent the UV rays from reaching the skin’s layer, but also by preventing squinting in bright light or strong winds.
Risk of cataracts
Cataracts are what happen when the lens of the eye gradually becomes cloudy, loses transparency and impairs vision. Although a by-product of the natural ageing process, frequent exposure to UV rays has been found to exacerbate their development. The eyes naturally have a filter, crested by the cornea and crystalline lens. This filter absorbs UV light to protect the retina.
The sun doesn’t have to be shining bright for the eyes to be affected by UV rays. Even on cloudy days, UV light can affect vision, and often we will squint in daylight without even realising we are doing so, causing eye strain and headaches. If you suffer from light sensitivity, also known as photophobia, you could experience anything from mild discomfort to severe eye pain. Photophobia can be caused by sunlight, reflective surfaces and glare from the water.
As well as the cumulative damage from UV light, the glare from the sun can be very distracting, particularly when driving and on wet windscreens. Glare can be caused by headlights and the sun bouncing off the road; this can potentially be dangerous.
Dr Andy Hepworth from essilor.co.uk advises: “Always wear eyewear with built-in UV protection. This will be shown on the packaging or ask your optician to check. Lenses that protect against UVA and UVB rays can help prevent the early onset on macular degeneration, protecting the retina from damage.
“Sunglasses or transition lenses protect the eyes from invasive UV light, putting a physical barrier between the natural filter on the lens in our eyes and the sun’s rays, preventing squinting and reducing the onset of headaches.
“Technology behind polarised lenses can counteract glare from the sun, making it safer for driving and also protecting your eyes sufficiently from UV light.”
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