Healthylife with Bryan Thome OD

Story by Bryan Thome

Summer 2019

UVA protection and your eyes

Many people know the sun’s rays can be harmful to our skin, but did you know they are also potentially harmful to our eyes? Sunglasses are a great fashion accessory, and often improve our visual comfort and performance; but their most important function is to protect our eyes from harmful UV (ultraviolet) radiation.

Increased exposure to UV radiation can play a role in several ocular conditions including macular degeneration, cataracts, pterygium and cancer. Macular degeneration is an age-related condition wherein the central portion of the visual field deteriorates over time. It is the leading cause of vision loss in Canada according to the Canadian National Institute for the Blind (CNIB). A cataract is a clouding of the eye’s natural lens, causing a reduction in the quality and clarity of vision. Pterygium is a growth of tissue onto the cornea, originating from the white part of the eye. This can alter the curvature of the cornea, resulting in astigmatism which can also negatively affect vision.

Protecting your eyes from harmful UV rays is important all year round. However, it is especially important now that spring finally arrived as the UV index tends to be higher during the spring and summer months. The detrimental effects of UV exposure are cumulative over our lifespan, therefore it is recommended to protect our eyes consistently, and from an early age. It is especially important for the residents of Airdrie, as Calgary (and area) receives more hours of sunlight per year than any other major Canadian city. That, coupled with the increased altitude of our region, further increases our risk of the damaging effects of UV exposure.

When purchasing sunglasses, please ensure they are designed to block 100 per cent of both UVA and UVB radiation, so that you know you are receiving the proper protection. Sunglasses can come in many different styles, tint colours and darkness levels, as well as polarized or non-polarized.

If you have any questions about UV protection, or what effects the sun can have on your eyes, please visit an eye care professional.

Bryan Thome is an optometrist with Airdrie Eyecare Centre