On the first day of summer, Vision 2020 Australia and the Centre for Eye Research Australia (CERA) are warning that Australians might not be doing enough to protect their eyes in the sun.
The eye health organisations say Australians are often aware of the dangers that UV rays can cause to the skin but not the risks to their eyes.
Brandon Ah Tong, Vision 2020 Australia spokesperson says: “The reality is that ultraviolet (UV) radiation levels can be up to three times higher during summer than in winter. All UV eye exposure, regardless as to how short, adds up in the long term.”
It is not only direct sunlight that can cause damage to your eyes. Research has shown that a greater proportion of UV radiation can reach the eye from scattered sunlight by the particles in the atmosphere and sunlight reflected from the ground and off water.
Prof Mingguang He of CERA says: “Long term exposure to the sun can lead to permanent damage to your eyes and cause vision loss. It can even increase your risk of macular degeneration (the leading cause of blindness in Australia), cortical cataracts, pingueculae and pterygium (a fleshy growth on the eye), solar keratopathy and cancer of the eye and lids.”
Australians can protect their eyes from the sun by remaining in the shade or by wearing a hat and sunglasses outside.
This summer, Australians should:
- Always wear a wide-brimmed hat and sunglasses that meet Australian Standards that provide adequate coverage around the eyes.
- Remember when buying sunglasses that darkness does not necessarily provide UV protection. Check that your sunglasses meet Australian Standards (AS/NZS1067:2003). Look for a UV lens category of 2, 3 or 4 on the swing tag. Some sunglasses are marked with Eye Protection Factor (EPF); EPF 9 or 10 exceed the Australian standards.
- Parents, protect the eyes of your children by choosing a style of sunglasses that stay on securely. If your child is reluctant to wear sunglasses, ensure they wear a hat and encourage them to stay in the shade.
- If you wear prescription glasses/lenses, check with your optometrist if they provide adequate UV protection. Prescription sunglasses are available from your optometrist.
- If your eyes become irritated after spending time in the sun, visit an optometrist for advice.
- If you notice a change in your vision, this could be a sign of something serious, visit an optometrist for an eye test without delay.
For more information, speak to a pharmacist, optometrist, ophthalmologist or your general practitioner (GP).