While many Australians believe UV rays are only harmful during the midday sun, research suggests that UV exposure to the eye before 10am and after 2pm may sometimes be higher than during the middle of the day.
Medibank’s Medical Director Dr Kevin Cheng says Aussies should wear sunglasses whenever they’re outdoors this summer, to protect themselves from potential eye-damage or eyelid cancer.
“Aussies love spending time outdoors, especially during summer, but we need to be vigilant of the ultraviolet radiation that comes with the sun – not only by putting on sunscreen, but by wearing sunglasses too.”
“A lot of people don’t think about the importance of protecting their eyes, but we only have one pair. That’s why it’s so important to be sun smart and protect our eyes,” Dr Cheng said.
Ultraviolet radiation is invisible to the human eye and can increase the risk of developing cataracts, macular degeneration, and pterygium – an unsightly, noncancerous growth on the surface of the eye that can impair vision – and eye cancers.
With this in mind, we asked Dr Kevin Cheng to share his advice on preventing eye-damage.
Dr Kevin Cheng’s top tips on UV protection and how to avoid damage to your eye
- Know what you’re buying. Categories of sunglasses are rated from 0 to 4, from minimal to high level protection from ultraviolet radiation (UVR). A category 2 or 3 is the ideal safeguard for everyday purposes. For additional protection, especially for those who work outdoors, a category 4 is the best option.
- Upgrade your shades. Wear a pair of sunglasses that wrap around and cover not only the front of your eyes but the sides. In addition, the darker and larger they are, the more protection your eyes will have which will lower the chance of risk.
- Switch to contacts. For extra precaution, contact lenses can be used. Most contact lenses already provide UVR protection for those who wear prescriptions.
- They’re not just for adults, kids need sunnies too. The majority of our lifetime exposure to UVR is received before we reach 18, which has been proven to increase a person’s risk of eye damage later in life.
- Think beyond just the frames. Hats can be used in addition to sunglasses can help to decrease the amount of UV exposure to the eyes.
Dr Kevin Cheng said:
“If you have private health insurance, find out if you can use your optical benefit to upgrade your prescription sunnies. Sunglasses aren’t just a fashion statement – they’re the first line of defence against the damaging effects of UV on our eyes.”
Find out more on Medibank’s extras including optical cover.
 Optometry Association Australia, 2012, “UV dangers for eyes widely misunderstood”
 World Health Organisation, 2002, “Global Solar UV Index: A practical guide”