Vision Express advises Britons to be 'sun safe' when choosing eyewear

Britons are putting their sight at risk – potentially exposing themselves to cataracts and macular degeneration – by choosing vanity over UV protection when buying sunglasses, new research from Vision Express has revealed.

Take sun safety seriously – Vision Express urges Britons to protect eyes from UV rays that could steal sight

The study shows that more than one in three (37%) sunglasses-buyers confess they don’t always check UV rating of lenses, despite 94% believing it is important to do so.

Worryingly, the research reveals an over-riding assumption that all sunglasses carry full UVA and UVB protection – meaning this summer up to 20 million people in the UK could be putting their sight at risk.

Omar Hassan, head of professional services at Vision Express, explains:

Our concern highlighted by the research is that people are prioritising style over safety, mistakenly believing that all sunglasses are made to an equal standard to block all harmful UV rays. This just isn’t the case. It’s a huge problem because wearing tinted lenses with no protection ‘tricks’ the pupil into dilating and ultimately may cause more damage to the retina than no protection at all.

A good pair of sunglasses will filter both UVA and UVB and significantly reduce the risk of eye conditions impacted by exposure to sun rays – this includes cataracts and macular degeneration – which can cause blindness. It’s estimated that every year three million people lose their sight due to prolonged exposure to UV, so while sun-safety is important for our skin, it’s crucial to protect the eyes too. Anyone buying sunglasses off the shelf without prescription should use a reputable retailer and check the frames are CE marked as UV400.

The research, which combined a national survey and focus groups, found that while 3 in 4 sunglasses-wearers need a prescription, a third of these only purchase non-prescription frames.

Omar added:

It’s important for the public to recognise that not all non-prescription sunglasses will provide adequate sight protection, and counterfeit sunglasses or buying from a market stall or beach vendor should be avoided. At best they could be a rip off – at worst they could be putting your vision at risk.

Studies tell us two million people in the UK are living with sight loss and forecasters predict a further half a million could lose their sight by the year 2020. So, our advice is to always be ‘sun safe’ when choosing eyewear, seek out an expert to advise on the best lenses for you, and adopt preventative measures to help safeguard sight as you age.

Did you know?

  • Children and adults with light coloured eyes are most at risk from sun damage and those with blue eyes should always wear sunglasses when possible
  • 70% of children don’t wear sunglasses, despite most UV damage taking its toll on the eyes before the age of 18
  • Up to 10% of all skin cancers are found on the eyelid
  • The World Health Organisation reports that, worldwide, approximately 900,000 people are blind because of cataracts triggered by UV exposure
  • 1 out of 5 cataracts may be due to UV exposure
  • Over time UV light may play a role in damaging the macular, potentially leading to blurriness and vision loss
  • Photokeratitis is a painful condition a sunburn of the eye. While it’s temporary (healing within 48 hours) it can cause blurred vision, light sensitivity, and the sensation of having sand in your eyes.
  • Wearing sunglasses can help reduce the symptoms of hay fever.

Tips for seeing safely in the sun from Vision Express

  • Start young - up to 80% of a person's lifetime exposure to UV will occur before the age of 18, according to a study by the World Health Organisation. Young people's eyes are more sensitive to UV absorption and under-12s are particularly susceptible because the clear lenses in their eyes are not yet properly formed. In addition to sunglasses, parasols and wide peaked hats and caps offer suitable protection, particularly for babies and toddlers.
  • Check for quality stamps. Non-prescription sunglasses must meet the British Standard BS EN ISO 12312-1. Prescription sunglasses should also comply with BS EN ISO 12312-1:2013 and BS EN ISO 8980-3. All sunglasses should carry the “CE” mark.
  • Get frames fitted by an expert – sunglasses offer the best protection when they are properly fitted to your face. Fitting is carried out as part of the Vision Express service by a qualified expert.
  • Be safe all year round – UV light is extremely damaging to the cornea and lens in the eye and can cause them to discolour and become opaque with age. Sun protection is crucial, not only on holidays and during the summer months, but throughout the year, even in winter sun. Polarised sunglasses offer the best protection and even contact lenses and non-sun glasses shield the sun.
  • Have regular eye examinations – the best way to protect eyes is by having regular check-ups, these will highlight any sight problems or damage and can determine other health issues such as high cholesterol and even diabetes.

Vision Express has a range of sunglasses for all budgets, with its recently-launched ‘Exclusive Brands’ collection offering a high quality, value for money alternative to designer glasses, with prices starting at £39.

Vision Express offers both prescription and non-prescription sunglasses, with all frames having 100% UV protection at 400nm, as standard.


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The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of News Medical.
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