UV-Blocking Contact Lenses Won't Protect Your Eyes From the Sun
Summertime may find you sunbathing at the beach, garden or pool. But if you’re a contact lens wearer, there are things you should know about lenses that promise protection against ultraviolet (UV) rays. These contact lenses are not enough to keep your eyes safe from sun damage. Here's what you need to know to safeguard your eyes in all seasons.
Contact lenses won't protect your eyes from the sun
Contact lenses with various levels of UV protection are now available from brands such as Acuvue, Bausch & Lomb and CooperVision. Class 1 UV-blocking contact lenses claim to block 97% of UV-B and 81% of UV-A rays. But those claims convey a false sense of protection, eye experts say.
“Contact lenses with UV-blocking technology may protect the part they cover from harmful radiation, but they leave the outside of the eye — including the eyelid, conjunctiva and surrounding skin — exposed,” says ophthalmologist and Academy member Claudia Perez Straziota, MD, a cornea and refractive surgery specialist.
Exposure to UV light can increase your risk of developing several eye and skin conditions, including:
Maximize your sun protection while wearing contact lenses
Contact lenses are no substitute for protective UV-absorbing eyewear and head coverings.
You can get the most protection from harmful UV rays by wearing sunglasses, even on cloudy days. Sunglasses don't need to be fancy or extra dark. As long as they are labeled with "UV400" or "100% UV protection," sunglasses will do a more comprehensive job of safeguarding your entire eye and the skin around it than contacts alone. Checkout the Academy’s advice for choosing the best pair of sunglasses.
For extra coverage, add a broad-brimmed hat and keep your eyes well-moisturized with artificial tears.
Are you extra sun-sensitive?
Some people are extra sensitive to the sun. You may experience discomfort or vulnerability to UV damage if you:
- have light-colored eyes (blue, green or hazel)
- use products containing Retin-A
- are taking antibiotics
- have cataracts
- live closer to the Equator
If you think you may have a sunburn on or near your eyes, notice any new spots or growths or experience any vision changes after sun exposure, make an appointment with your ophthalmologist right away for diagnosis and treatment.