Protecting Your Eyes From the Sun
BY JOSEPH T. BARR, OD, MS, FAAO, EDITOR
It's summertime in the northern hemisphere, and I've been spending more time in the sun. I'm swimming more now because I'm thinking about competing in an abbreviated triathlon. Both sun and water activities have their risks.
As I age I think more about what ultraviolet radiation has done to my skin and to my eyes and how I can protect them. I use sunscreen for all of my exposed skin, special caps to protect the skin on my not-so-hairy head, sunglasses to prevent photophobia and polarizing lenses to reduce glare with and without my contact lenses. And of course I always wear my impact resistant or safety glasses when I use tools such as a hammer or my chain saw.
But what about UV absorbing contact lenses? When I use lenses that have UV absorption, I appreciate knowing that my eyes have added protection. But do I make it a high priority and decide on which lens to wear based on that feature and benefit? I must admit I haven't, but maybe I should. I've certainly read about the long-term risk associated with sun exposure including cataract and even corneal and limbal damage. I take a multivitamin and eat plenty of leafy green vegetables (love spinach) to protect my macula, so why not use UV absorbing lenses to further protect my eyes?
When I mention UV absorption to my students or patients, they find it highly desirable. Will all contact lenses have UV absorption some day? Your guess is as good as mine, but you'd hope so.
One thing I'm sure of: When I do wear UV absorbing contact lenses, I still use a UV screen on the skin around my eyes and I wear my sunglasses. Furthermore, when I swim while wearing my contact lenses, which I most certainly will do more in the future, I don't wear them for very long after getting out of the pool or ocean and I disinfect them if they're not daily disposable lenses to prevent infection.