South Africans should be as diligent about sunglasses as they are about sun block all year round
South Africa is renowned for its all-year-round sunshine and high levels of ultraviolet (UV) light. While this encourages loads of outdoor activity, lots of time in the sun can be bad for your eyes. Regardless of the season, South Africans should be as diligent about wearing UV protected eyewear as they are about slathering themselves with sun block.
“Whether from natural sunlight or artificial sources, UV light can seriously damage eyes. With the ozone layer shrinking and more UV rays reaching the planet, wearing protective eyewear has become more important than ever before.
“Macular Degeneration (AMD) is caused by damage to the retina over time and is a major cause of age-related blindness. Extended exposure to UV light increases the chances of developing macular degeneration, as well as cataracts. In addition, prolonged exposure to UV light can also raise the risk of cancer of the eyelids,” says Ruahan Naude, CEO at Dynamic Vision.
Even short bursts of intense exposure to UV rays can also damage the eyes. Photo keratitis, also known as corneal sunburn or snow blindness, is the result of high short-term exposure to UV-B rays. Long hours at the beach or skiing without proper eye protection can cause this problem. It can be very painful and may cause temporary vision loss.
Everyone who spends a lot of time in the sun, in the mountains, on tanning beds and even in the snow, should be wearing protective eyewear. Children, who spend many hours playing under African skies throughout the year, should also be encouraged to wear sunhats and sunglasses.
As UV light can come from all directions and reflect off surfaces, people who spend a lot of time in the sun playing sports should ideally wear sunglasses that wrap around the face.
Polarised lenses provide additional protection as they are coated with a chemical film that reduces glare that is caused when light from the sun reflects off water and other surfaces. Polarised lenses neutralize glare and help to filter out the harmful effects of UV light. Motorists benefit from polarized lenses as they help reduce glare and reflections from the surface of the road. A decent pair of sunglasses should block out 99% to 100% of both UV-A and UV-B radiation, as well as filter out 90% of visible light. Lenses that provide 100% UV protection are usually said to offer UV 400 protection. This means that they will protect against UV-A and UV-B rays.
“Eyewear should provide protection against UV-A and UV-B rays and should ideally be polarized. Fashion sunglasses bought at the local beach shop typically won’t offer this level of protection. If you are unsure, visit an optometrist for advice. When it comes to your eyes, it is better to spend a little more to get the appropriate level of protection needed for South Africa’s harsh sunlight. Remember that your eyes are your window to the world, forever. You want them healthy and you want to see clearly,”
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