Leading eye research charity Fight for Sight says that one in two people is putting their eye health at risk during sunny weather by not always wearing ultraviolet (UV) protective sunglasses to protect their eyes.
A YouGov poll conducted on behalf of the charity in July 2018 has found that 54 percent of adults across Great Britain say that they never wear UV protective sunglasses when they are outside in the sunshine or only wear them sometimes or rarely.
Fifty six percent of adults in Great Britain were also unaware that wearing UV protective sunglasses in sunny weather can reduce the chances of people developing cataracts and possibly age-related macular degeneration, the leading cause of sight loss in the UK.
The charity is aiming to increase awareness of the need to wear sunglasses to reduce exposure to UV. Frequent UV exposure is cumulative and can lead to the development of cataracts and possibly macular degeneration, which both impair sight.
Dr Neil Ebenezer, Director of Research, Policy and Innovation at Fight for Sight, said:
Unfortunately these findings aren’t surprising – we know that many people are unaware of the risks that sun damage can cause to the eye, and that people don’t wear sunglasses enough. We’d encourage people to make sure that they are protecting their eyes during this sunny weather. People should ensure that they buy sunglasses with the CE mark for UV protection to guarantee that they meet the European standard.”
The eyes of children under five are particularly vulnerable so it’s especially important that they are protected.”
Fight for Sight is the leading UK charity dedicated to funding pioneering research to prevent sight loss and treat eye disease. Fight for Sight’s overall research commitments currently amount to £8m for over 160 research projects at 49 different universities and hospitals across the UK.
Over the course of its history the charity’s research has resulted in breakthroughs that include new treatments to save the sight of premature babies, the world’s first clinical trials to test gene therapies for inherited eye conditions and the creation of a corneal transplant service.
Shedding some light on the myths
In the UK, UV exposure is the highest in the summer
Myth: UV exposure is the same all year round, whether it’s summer, winter, spring or autumn.
You don’t need to wear sunglasses on a cloudy day
Myth: It is estimated that clouds only reduce the amount of UV by around 10 to 20 percent, so on an overcast day, remember to wear your shades.
UV damage to the eyes can be reversed
Myth: Unfortunately, sun damage to the eyes is cumulative. This means that it gradually builds up over time and can’t be reversed.
Children are more vulnerable to UV exposure than adults
Truth: As you get older, your lens naturally absorbs more UV to protect your retina. Kids under five have particularly vulnerable eyes, so it’s especially important that they’re protected.
Darker tinted lenses will provide more UV protection
Myth: The tint of a sunglasses lens has no effect on UV protection, but does change the amount of light that goes into your eye.
All sunglasses offer UV protection
Myth: Not all sunglasses are made equal! Look out for shades with the CE mark to guarantee they meet the European standard for UV protection. They could be labelled full UV protection, or protects against UVA and UVB, or “UV 400”, which means it blocks light at wavelengths up to 400 nanometers (which covers both UVA and UVB rays).
People with blue eyes are more at risk of UV damage
Truth: Blue eyes contain less of a protective pigment called melanin, which makes UV exposure more of a risk for people with blue eyes than it is for those with darker eyes.
Your eyes are more sensitive to UV than your skin
Truth: Your eyes are even more susceptible to burning than your skin. With the lasting damage that UV exposure can cause, it’s a good idea to wear sunglasses to avoid burning.
UV levels are higher in tropical areas
Truth: UV levels are more intense at both higher altitudes and in tropical areas near the equator. The further you live from the equator, the less risk there is.
Exposure to UV can lead to eye conditions
Truth: Frequent exposure to UV can lead to the development of cataracts and possibly macular degeneration, which can both impair sight.