Why wearing sunglasses in autumn is just as important as summer

Optometrists nationwide rejoiced when Sid the Seagull updated his iconic Cancer Council message to slip slop slap, seek, SLIDE.

However, the image of a seagull sitting under a beach umbrella wearing sunglasses only goes part way to educating consumers about the importance of wearing sunglasses every day.

A new video, released in time for Autumn, has been produced by Optometry Australia with the aim of reminding Australians of the importance of protecting their eyes all year round.

The sun is lower on the horizon in autumn, winter and spring so we get more damaging UV directly entering the eye.

Olivia Pedersen is a US graphic designer who created this infographic to illustrate the seasonal difference.

Importantly, 90% of UV radiation can penetrate clouds (so it’s not just on super bright days that we can be getting UV damage).

Danger times for UV may surprise you

Thanks to Sid the Seagull and other sunsmart messaging, we are all familiar with trying to avoid the sun in the middle of the day. However maximum UV exposure for the eyes occurs on the shoulder periods when the sun is lower on the horizon and our brow is not blocking it from directly entering the eye.

From around 8 to 10am and 2 to 4pm are actually the most important times to be wearing our sunglasses.

Reflected light

It’s important to remember that UV radiation can also be reflected – from 5% off grass to 25% for concrete and sand and 30% for sea surf and 90% for snow.

Optometry Australia recommends all day, year round UV protection to protect from the following conditions:

Cataract

It is estimated that around 20% of cataracts are caused or made worse by UV exposure. Cataract is where the normally clear lens inside the eye becomes cloudy, causing blurred vision or blindness if not removed. Surgical extraction of cataracts costs Australia $320million each year.

Pterygium

Light which enters the side of the eye closest to the ears can be internally reflected (like fibre optic cabling) and come to a focal point on the side of the eye closest to the nose. This can cause ptergyium, which is a wing of fleshy tissue which grows over the front surface of the eye.

These can become very irritated and as they grow over the central area of the eye they can start to affect our vision. These are also referred to as surfer’s eye as they are very common in this group and in occupations where people spend a lot of time outside.

To solve this problem Optometry Australia recommends close fitting or wraparound styles, or for those bound to fashion first there are numerous sunglass frames which have a thicker arm which achieves great side protection.

Macular Degeneration

Short wavelength radiation and blue light in bright sunshine can cause damage to sensor layer at the back of the eye (the retina), along with the part of this layer responsible for central vision (the macula).

Cancer

Long term UV exposure can be associated with cancers affecting the eyes and surrounding lids. The Cancer Council advises that in 2013 in QLD alone 81 people were diagnosed with eye cancer and 21 died from the disease.

Follow these tips to protect your eyes from the sun all year long

  • Make a habit of wearing UV protective sunglasses and broad-brimmed hats whenever you’re outside.
  • Don’t be fooled by clouds or the fact that you’re in the shade: a significant amount of damage to the eye can come from indirect light, whether it is from the side or reflected off surfaces such as the ground, sand or water.
  • Sunglasses are also available with tinted and polarised prescription lenses for those requiring glasses for clear vision.
  • Remember the kids and older family members.
  • When purchasing sunglasses, remember to check the sun protection factor on the swing tag, look for high category (Australian Standard) lenses and remember that a high retail price doesn’t always mean better protection.
  • Polarised lenses can be particularly helpful for reflected glare such as when at the beach or snow.
  • A close fitting, wraparound pair or classic style with thick arms can help prevent glare and damaging rays from coming in the sides of sunglasses.
  • If in doubt, your optometrist can assist with fitting and advise you on the best lenses for your protection. Find an optometrist in your area.

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