Alamo Optometry Blog

July 1, 2010

UV Protection

Filed under: Blog,Educational,U.V. Light,Vision Care Tips — gkblog @ 8:32 am

Ultraviolet (UV) Light

(As appeared in Alamo Today, July 2010, pg. 24)

             Summer is finally here and the rain is done (hopefully).  Now that we will be heading out into the sun, it is time to discuss UV protection.  The harmful ultraviolet rays from the sun can have several ocular consequences in addition to all of the other body and skin conditions.  I will address some of the potential eye issues here.

            First of all, ocular UV protection should be a priority year round.  Even though we receive more ultraviolet in the summer months than in winter, we are exposed every day, regardless of weather and temperature.  Ultraviolet exposure is cumulative throughout life, and approximately 75% is accumulated by the age of 18.

            Exposure to UV has ocular complications such as cataracts and pingueculas.  Everyone knows that cataracts form later in life and are a normal part of the aging process.  However, long-term UV exposure can expedite the process.  Studies have shown that people that live on or near the equator generally get cataracts about 10 years earlier than people who live closer to the poles.  This is due to the fact that those people receive the most daily UV radiation throughout the year.  A pinguecula is the common yellow-looking bump and the white part of the eye.  Many people have these and they are completely benign.  Over time these tend to become red and irritated in dry and/or allergic conditions and prolonged contact lens wear can cause more irritation.  The more inflamed the eye gets, the quicker these pingueculas tend to grow.  Keeping the eye lubricated and having UV lenses are your best defense against further complications.

            For eye protection, the best thing you can do is have UV-blocking lenses in your glasses.  Fortunately, there are several ways this can be accomplished.  The first thing to remember is that your lenses do not have to be tinted to be UV-protected.  Conversely, all tinted lenses do not block ultraviolet light.  Simply having tinted plastic lenses in your glasses will not block any of the harmful rays from the sun; plastic lenses do not inherently have any UV protection.  To obtain the necessary protection, a UV filter must be present in the lenses.  This is a clear filter and it does not alter the appearance or color of the lenses in any way.  For those of you who enjoy wearing sunglasses, the most common way to get this is to have polarized lenses.  In addition to blocking the sun’s harmful rays, these lenses eliminate glare, which make vision sharper and more comfortable.  The effects are especially noticeable in high-glare situations such as driving, skiing, and water sports.  For those that want tinted lenses and clear lenses without two separate glasses, then transitions lenses might be an option.  These lenses come inherent with UV protection and are clear indoors and dark outdoors.  Like polarized lenses, transitions lenses are available in single vision, bifocals, and progressive lenses.

            Some people just don’t like to wear sunglasses.  As was mentioned before, the lenses do not need to be tinted to block UV.  Patients that are uncomfortable with tinted lenses can have their clear glasses made out of polycarbonate lenses.  These lenses have a UV filter and are thinner, lighter, and are impact-resistant compared to plastic lenses.  Lastly, there are contact lenses that come with UV protection.  Even though that is very important, only the area covered by the contact lenses is protected; the rest of the eye, eyelids, and surrounding area are therefore left exposed.

            Patients of all ages should wear some form of UV protection outdoors.  Whether they are inexpensive over-the-counter sunglasses for your children or higher quality polarized lenses for the adults, this protection is like “suntan lotion for the eyes” and will definitely reduce the ocular consequences of UV radiation.  You are welcome to come into the office anytime if you have any questions and we can demonstrate the improved vision and contrast with our Maui Jim polarized sunglasses.

 Dr. K. at Alamo Optometry is your hometown eye doctor for outstanding service, vision care, and designer eyewear.  He can be reached at 820-6622 or visit his office at 3201 Danville Blvd., Suite 165 in Alamo.  Visit our website at: and become a fan on our Alamo Optometry Facebook page.

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