There's no denying it - 2020's global lockdown period has seen big changes to our daily habits and general health, particularly our vision. The switch to working and socialising from home has meant constant digital interaction - endless Zoom call meetings and family FaceTimes. As restrictions slowly eased in many parts of the UK, we got to enjoy alfresco activities such as camping, BBQs and long countryside hikes, soaking up the last of the summer.
This new way of life has increased our exposure to two types of potentially damaging light: UV light (outside from the sun) and indoors (from our devices). We know what you're thinking: these types of light can also be beneficial in small doses and that stands true - but it's when we go above that threshold that problems may arise. Now more than ever, ample eye protection is super important - especially for contact lens wearers.
This World Sight Day, we are proud to join forces with eye care experts around the world to raise awareness of the dangers of UV and blue light. Stay with us for a delve into what exactly these light sources are, their possible dangers and how to beat off the blaze, armed with our nifty tips.
What are UV rays?
This ultraviolet light usually comes from the sun, or artificial sources (like sunbeds) and is a type of powerful radiation. Although we can't see it, the natural form of this light sure feels good, particularly after a day of being stuck inside. The big boost of vitamin D is really essential for healthy bones, strengthening your immune system and lifts your mood, too. But the thing about UV radiation is that if you spend too much time lapping it up unprotected, you might end up with some damage to your eyes.
There are 3 types of UV rays, which are divided by their wavelength:
- UVA rays: The lowest light on the spectrum, although it tends to affect the lens of your eye the most, increasing your chances of developing eye conditions like cataracts or macular degeneration (ADM) down the line.
- UVB rays: The second strongest light, and a sneaky one to watch out for, as it causes sunburn and corneal damage that can lead to eye cancer.
- UVC rays: The strongest of all the lights, but luckily, these wavelengths are absorbed by the atmosphere before they reach us.
How to protect your eyes from UV rays
Who doesn't love a good sun-soaking session, with an icy beverage in hand? But, if you want to bask without bearing yourself to the possible dangers, it helps to know when and where UV rays are strongest.
The factors that affect the strength of the sun's UV rays include:
- The season: During the spring and summer months, UV rays are stronger, but can still cause damage during the colder seasons.
- Time of day: Between 10am and 4pm, UV rays are strongest.
- Cloud cover: Don't be deceived by a grey sky, as UV rays can still reach the ground through these clouds.
- Altitude: At higher altitudes, more UV rays reach the ground.
- Reflection off surfaces: Water, sand, grass, pavements and snow reflect UV rays and can increase your exposure. Whether you're on a beach break, a camping getaway or ski trip, protective eyewear is essential, especially against eye problems like photokeratitis, which causes swelling and blurred vision.
- Distance from the equator (latitude): The exposure of UV rays decreases as you get further away from the equator.
Now that you're in the know - the next step is to gear up for the glare. Give your peepers complete protection by combining these eye health tips:
- Cover up: Just like you need to choose clothes that cover your body from the rays, the same applies for your eyes - make a sun-proofing statement with a wide-brimmed hat to shade your face.
- Get 100% shade: Stay super-safe when it comes to your eyes, and invest in a good quality pair of sunnies (to go with your contact lenses) that have 100% UV protection - the wrap-around frame style does the best job at fighting off those pesky rays.
- Go for contact lenses with a UV filter: Always choose contact lenses that are designed with UV-blocking technology to add a second and very important layer to help you fight off harmful sun rays. It doesn't matter if you use dailies, two-weeklies, monthlies, toric or multifocals - you'll be able to find lenses with a UV filter ease - just chat to your optician and go for an eye test. Our optician recommends everclear ELITE - our exclusive and affordable ultra-comfy and breathable daily lenses with in-built UV protection, if you're stuck for choice.
- Factor in the sunscreen: When putting sunscreen on your face - don't miss the area around your eyes, as this sensitive spot is highly vulnerable to skin cancer.
- Switch up your schedule: Work your schedule around the toastiest times, like opting for a pool session or a hike earlier in the morning, or later in the day.
- Go heavy on the eye drops: Not so much a shielding suggestion, but eye drops are an excellent method of seeking refreshing relief for tired, irritated and dry eyes after a day outdoors - we suggest everclear eye drops for a swift burst of moisture.
What is blue light?
Unlike UV rays, blue light is visible, and has a shorter wavelength, meaning it produces higher amounts of energy. Although blue light's main source is also from the sun, we've now brought it into our homes, in the form of our digital devices like laptops, phones, Ipads, TVs and fluorescent lighting.
But blue light does have its pros - it's believed to help our memory, make us feel better, and regulate our body's natural wake and sleep cycle, and let's face it - keeping in touch with our loved ones worked wonders on our mental health during lockdown. It does get a bit tricky when we overdo it though - as the negative effects like digital eye strain can create trouble for our eyes down the line.
How to protect your eyes from blue light
Don't worry - we're not about to suggest you put every digital device away forever! There's no escaping blue light, but there are some steps you can take to keep your eyes comfortable and avoid the effects of digital eye strain:
- Subside screen time: We know - it's a lot easier than it sounds, and sometimes you just can't pull yourself away in the middle of a Netflix marathon. But, we promise - your eyes will thank you for taking breaks - our eye experts recommend having a 20-second rest every 20 minutes by looking 20 feet away to help defeat that strained feeling.
- Filters for the win: A simple technique to banish the blue light is with a screen filter - you can buy one for the screen of your tablet, computer or smartphone to decrease the amount of blue light that enters your eyes. You can also install an app on your device that will neutralise the blue light coming from your screen.
- Angle your device: An easy-peasy trick that involves holding your device at 30-degree angle - this can reduce your direct blue light exposure. Also avoid staring at your screen right before bedtime, as the blue light that's emitted can stop the natural production of melatonin - the hormone that makes you sleepy. Remember to never nod off with your lenses in either!
- Blue-light blocking glasses: Glasses with yellow-tinted lenses or anti-reflective lenses can block blue light - wear these with your prescription contact lenses when you're dabbling in any screen-facing activities.
- Blink away the blues: Yes, it sounds a bit silly, but blinking more while you're working at your computer or scrolling Instagram will help to keep your eyes moist and avoid any dryness or discomfort. To relax any overworked eyes, try out some gentle and soothing eye exercises, too.
- Eye drops make a difference: Dosing up on eye drops won't necessarily protect your eyes from blue light, but they sure will make them feel hydrated - have a bottle by your desk while you work or study, and apply throughout the day.