7 shocking reasons to invest in proper sunglasses

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Over time, the sun’s UV rays can seriously damage your eyes. Ultraviolet A (UVA) and ultraviolet B (UVB) – powerful, invisible rays with wavelengths shorter than visible light – are the most dangerous parts of sunlight. They can cause cataracts, eyelid cancers and other skin cancers, and are believed to play a part in macular degeneration, a major cause of vision loss for people over age 60. They also speed up prematurely wrinkling and ageing of the skin around the eyes. Protecting your eyes is, therefore, of the utmost importance, and even more so if you’re out training for the Comrades this year. Here are 7 shocking facts you may not know about why it’s so important to protect your eyes from the sun:

 

1. UV damage to your eyes can start in as little as 15 minutes

UV rays are nasty little buggers. According to Justin Bazan, OD, medical adviser to The Vision Council in America, it takes just 15 minutes for UV to start damaging the structures of the eyes. A whole host of conditions can be attributed to UV exposure, including cataracts and macular degeneration. Cataracts are a progressive clouding and yellowing of the lens, which helps focus the eyes. Studies published in, among others, The Skin Cancer Foundation Journal, report that at least 10% of cataract cases are directly attributable to UV exposure, especially UVB. In the US alone, more than one million operations to remove cataracts are performed every year. Melanomas of the conjunctiva, the protective membrane covering the outside of the eye and the inside of the eyelids, are another result of UV exposure. Macular degeneration, is now believed to be caused by cumulative UV damage to the retina.

 

2. Blue eyes are at a higher risk of damage than brown eyes

Just like lighter skin is more prone to sun damage than darker  skin, so too are lighter eyes. Melanin, which is found in the iris, is what gives our eyes their colour. So the lighter your eyes, the less melanin they contain. This protective pigment plays an important role in filtering UV rays, reducing glare and increasing contrast, and melanin in the deeper layers protects sensitive retinal tissue. Lighter eyes, which have less melanin to filter out harmful UV rays, are therefore at an increased risk of damage when exposed to the sun.

 

Blue eyes are more at risk of sun damage than brown eyes due to the fact that they have less of the protective pigment melanin.
Blue eyes are more at risk of sun damage than brown eyes due to the fact that they have less of the protective pigment melanin.

 

3. Eyelid cancer accounts for 5-10% of all skin cancers

Eyelid skin cancers – which include basal cell carcinoma (BCC), squamous cell carcinoma (SCC), and melanoma – mostly occur on the lower lid, since it receives the most sun exposure. If diagnosed  early, eyelid cancers usually respond well to surgery and the patient is able to retain normal functioning of the eye. Early warning signs include: • a lump or bump that bleeds or does not disappear •  persistent red eye or eyelid inflammation that does not respond to medication • new flat or elevated pigmented lesions with irregular borders and growth • unexplained loss of eyelashes. If any of these sound familiar, consult a skin cancer specialist or ophthalmologist immediately, even if you feel no discomfort.

 

4. Your cornea can get sunburned

The cornea is the clear surface of the eye that acts as the outermost lens, admitting light and images to the retina. Without it, we would be unable to see. Excessive UV exposure from the sun or tanning machines can burn the cornea, so be careful, and always make sure you wear proper, good-quality UV blocking sunglasses.

 

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5. UV rays are more dangerous in the snow than on the beach

It sounds contradictory, but UV is actually more intense at high altitudes, since snow reflects back about 80% of the sun’s rays, meaning they hit your eyes a second time. A recent study by Japanese scientists revealed that the sun’s ultraviolet rays are 2.5 times more dangerous at higher altitudes in snow than on the beach; the reflection ratio of UV light on beaches was often between 10% and 25% compared to 80% in snow. This increases the importance of wearing high-altitude specific glasses or goggles to protect your eyes – like Rudy Project’s Klonyk range, designed specifically for high-altitude activities like snowboarding and skiing, and which transmit only 5.5% light under a level 4 filter category. Grass reflects 3% of UV rays, while concrete can reflect up to 25%.

 

The Rudy Project Snow range., available online at www.rudyproject.co.za.
The Rudy Project Snow range, available online at www.rudyproject.co.za.

 

6. UV protection isn’t linked to the colour of your lenses

Most of us tend to think that the darker the lenses, the more protection the glasses offer from UV rays, but this isn’t necessarily true. Car windshields, for instance, are completely clear, yet they offer up to as much as 96% protection from UV rays. Dark sunglasses without sufficient UV protection can actually cause more  damage, because the dark tint causes your pupils to dilate and allows more UV rays to enter and penetrate the back of the eye.

 

7. Early morning and late afternoon are worse than midday for UV damage

The level of UV entering the eyes in the early morning (8am to 10am), and late afternoon (2pm to 4pm) is nearly double that of midday hours (10am to 2pm) at most times of the year. This is due to the more direct angle of the sun’s rays at those times, and the fact that many of us are stuck in traffic, and therefore exposed to the sun, on the way home from work during these peak hours. A recent study also revealed that although car windshields usually offer fairly good UV protection, side windows do not. “I found that the windshield has extremely good levels of UV protection on cars, but side windows are actually very low and variable for protection. Even cars that had factory tinted windows had no guarantee there would be full UV protection. This is a big wake up call,” ophthalmologist and the study’s lead author Dr. Brian Boxer Wachler told Global News.

 

Sources: 

http://www.news-medical.net/news/20160504/Report-Protecting-eyes-from-UV-exposure-not-high-priority-for-Americans.aspx

http://www.breakingnews.ie/ireland/more-young-people-are-running-the-risk-of-skin-cancer-by-not-sheltering-from-the-sun-735525.html

http://www.skincancer.org/prevention/sun-protection/for-your-eyes/protect-your-eyes#

https://nei.nih.gov/health/cornealdisease

Your car’s side windows aren’t protecting you from UV rays, study warns