UV Contact Lenses: What You Need to Know About Sun-Safe Contacts
The summer sunburn season has begun, and with it, a rocket spike in the sales of sunscreen. But what about protecting your eyes from sun damage? Until now, 100% UV-blocking sunglasses were the only way to keep your eyes safe from harmful ultraviolet rays.
As much as we wish they were, sunglasses aren’t always perfect for every occasion. So how can you protect your eyes even when you’re not wearing your favorite pair of sunglasses? Let us introduce you to option number two, UV contacts.
Researchers developed light-adaptive contact lenses that darken when exposed to bright light. Approved just this year by the FDA, they hit the market as Acuvue Oasys Contact Lenses with Transitions Light Intelligent Technology are about to sweep the nation.
Why is it important to protect your eyes from UV rays?
Your eyes are, without a doubt, a very delicate and sensitive part of your body, and they can be damaged by UV rays. Any extra protection we can provide to shield them from exposure to the sun is a plus. Don’t be fooled by cloudy skies; sun protection is necessary every day, including overcast conditions.
When UV radiation meets the eyes, the cornea (the clear and outermost layer) absorbs most of it, while the rays that pass through the pupils get absorbed by the lens. The reactive nature of the UV rays can lead to changes in the tissues of the eye. Macular degeneration, cataracts, photokeratitis, pterygia, and pingueculae are conditions that can result from the damaging effects of UV radiation on the eye. Even a typical sunburn can be very painful.
Signs you may be suffering from sun burnt eyes:
- Red eyes
- Blurred vision
- Any gritty eye pain
- Burning sensation
- Swollen eyes and/or lids
- Watery eyes
- Sensitivity to light
How do UV contacts protect your eyes?
UV contact lenses absorb ultraviolet radiation, limiting the amount that reaches the surface of your eye. The contact lenses also function as an additional layer of protection from the radiation that sneaks in from the top or sides of sunglasses.
What to look for when shopping UV contacts
As noted by the American Optometric Association, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has standards for UV-blocking contact lenses based on American National Standards Institute Z80.20 standards. There are two classifications of UV-blocking lenses:
- FDA Class I blocker: Recommended for high-exposure environments such as mountains or beaches. The lenses in this classification must block more than:
- 90% of UVA (316-380 nm wavelengths) and
- 99% of UVB (280 – 315 nm)
- FDA Class II blocker: Recommended for general purposes. These lenses must block more than:
- 70% of UVA and
- 95% of UVB
It’s always important to remember your sunglasses
UV contact lenses are not substitutes for eyewear with 100% UV protection because they cannot completely cover the entire eye. You should always have sunglasses with 100% UV protection. Long-term exposure to UV rays is a risk factor associated with cataracts.
Talk to your VSP doctor about your outdoor activities in all seasons and they can help identify your risk and determine the appropriate amount of protection for your lifestyle.