Sunglasses are not simply a fashion accessory – a good pair can play an important role in protecting your eyes from UV damage.
Conditions caused or aggravated by UV exposure include cataracts (a clouding of the lens in the eye that makes the person’s vision blurred) and age-related macular degeneration that can rob people of their central vision.
Extended exposure can also cause damage to the eye’s surface and sometimes this can become malignant, leading to surgery and occasionally loss of vision.
As a nation, we have become significantly better at understanding damage done to our skin by the sun. What people tend to forget is that the skin of the eyelids, particularly in the corner of the eye, is very thin and more susceptible to damage caused by UV rays.
UV damage to the eyelids can cause rodent ulcers. These are sun-related skin tumours, which burrow locally. Although they do not spread to other parts of the body, they can lead to the loss of an eyelid, which may lead to difficult reconstructive surgery.
The good news is that the risk to your eyes can be greatly reduced with a few sensible precautions. Here are our 5 Top Tips:
- Only buy sunglasses that provide 100 per cent UV protection and carry the British Standard [BS EN ISO 12312-1:2013] or CE mark;
- Make sure they are large enough to cover your whole eye area. Wrap-arounds are the best, or those that look like they would have been worn by a 1950s movie star;
- Ensure the lenses are dark enough to give protection. If you aren’t squinting you will also have fewer crows’ feet;
- Apply sun screen lotion to eyelids and more importantly the area between the inner corner of the eye and the nose. This is often missed, making it more susceptible to skin cancers. Make sure you cover everywhere.
- Wear a hat. A large-brimmed hat or baseball cap will ensure UV rays cannot sneak around the lenses of your glasses.
Cataract surgery is also available at our hospitals across the country. For information on your nearest visit -
Some symptoms of cataracts:
- Cloudy vision
- Changes in colour vision
- Glare while driving
- Glare during the day
- Glasses prescription changes (increased frequency)
- Double vision or ghosting of images (especially if only noticeable in one eye)
What causes cataracts?
- Natural ageing changes (most cataracts are formed this way)
- Secondary from other illnesses such as diabetes or medications
- Previous eye surgery
- Babies can be born with congenital cataracts
What if I suspect I have a cataract?
You will need a professional eye examination by your optician or ophthalmologist (after referral by your GP). If your vision can be corrected to an acceptable level with glasses or contact lenses surgery may be avoided at this time. If your vision loss cannot be corrected by the above measures and if this interferes with your daily life (driving, watching television, hobbies) then your cataract will need to be removed surgically.
What does cataract surgery involve?
Cataract surgery is the removal of the cataract and insertion of an artificial lens called an IntraOcular Lens Implant (IOL) into the eye. It is the most successful and most frequently performed operation in the UK with over 325,000 cases annually. Far more than 90 per cent of patients operated on have a significant improvement in their vision. The operation can be performed at any stage of cataract development. There is no need to wait until your cataract is “ripe” before removing it.
Most people choose to have their cataracts removed when the change in their vision starts to cause them difficulties in everyday life, such as driving, cooking, or reading.
Cataract surgery usually takes about 30 to 40 minutes and most people go home from hospital about two hours later. It is done under local anaesthetic, which means you will be awake during the operation but you will not feel any pain. The local anaesthetic may involve eye drops and/or an injection.
After the operation, you will need to put drops into your eyes for a few weeks. Lasers are not used to remove cataracts and there is no evidence to suggest that changing your diet, taking vitamins or using eye drops can cure cataracts.
Can cataracts be prevented?
To date there is no proven method of preventing cataracts. It is very important to have regular eye examinations (every two years for adults and then every year after the age of 50) as conditions that may affect your eye health become increasingly common with age.
Please ask your local optician or doctor if you have any risk factors or indications that cataracts may be affecting your vision.