Midday sun not the only concern for protecting eyes

New Zealanders know how to protect themselves from getting sunburnt, but when it comes to our eyes we're often a little too relaxed or don't have the right information to prevent UV damage.

With summer approaching, Visique is alerting people to the fact that for most of the year harmful UV exposure to eyes peaks in the early morning and late afternoon, not in the middle of the day as most people assume.

We may be used to wearing sunglasses to stop glare during the middle of the day, but research from the Kanazawa Medical University in Japan suggests we need to protect our eyes from the sun's harmful rays when the sun is lower in the sky, such as early and late in the day, because of the angle of the sun in relation to the eyes.

Over time, UV exposure seriously and irreversibly damages the eye. UV exposure can injure the protective layer on the front of the eye and cause eye conditions such as macular degeneration, cataracts and pterygia.

Melissa Hay, Optometrist and Director at Visique, says unlike sunburn, the effect of UV exposure on eyes isn't easy to notice, so it's important wear sunglasses every time people are exposed to the sun. 

"Only wearing sunglasses in the middle of the day doesn't cut it. This summer Kiwis need to get into the habit of wearing wrap-around style sunglasses that are 100% UV light protective throughout the whole day, even when it's cloudy," says Melissa.

Getting into this habit is particularly important for children - 80% of UV damage to eyes is done before the age of 20, so UV protection is vital from a young age not just when we get older.

Laurianne Reinsborough, Health Promotion Agency's SunSmart Manager, echoes Melissa Hay's comments: "UV radiation is just as dangerous to eyesight as it is for the skin. Wearing sunglasses is equally as important as putting on sunscreen or wearing a hat to protect yourself from New Zealand's strong UV rays."

Key Facts:

  •          The eyes are the only internal tissues of the body directly exposed to UV light

  •          UV damage is cumulative and irreversible

  •          3.2 million people go blind every year from prolonged UV exposure

  •          UV accelerates the appearance of cataract

  •          40% of annual UV exposure occurs when we are not in full sunlight

  •          80% of UV damage to eyes is done before the age of 20

Top tips for protecting your eyes from UV damage:

  •          Always wear sunglasses when you're outside in the sun - not just during the middle of the day and not just when it's a particularly bright day

  •          Check that your sunglasses block 100% UVA and UVB rays from the sun

  •          Wear a wide brimmed hat to protect your eyes even further

  •          Don't look directly at the sun, even with your sunglasses on this will cause UV damage to your eyes.

- Bay of Plenty Times

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