Cataracts are a clouding of the eye’s natural lens, leading to blurred vision. They form when proteins in the lens clump together.
There are various factors that can also play a part in developing the condition. For example, continuous exposure to UV rays can damage the eye’s lens proteins, potentially leading to the development of cataracts over time.
So, can sunglasses prevent cataracts? Before we explore the use of sunglasses as a potential defence against cataract formation, it’s important to remember that cataracts are primarily an age-dependent condition.
Do Sunglasses Prevent Cataracts?
Sunglasses with UV protection can shield the eyes from harmful ultraviolet rays, preventing damage to the eye’s lens proteins. By reducing UV exposure, sunglasses can help slow down the development of cataracts, promoting long-term eye health.
How Does UV Radiation Cause Cataracts?
Exposure to UV radiation is one known risk factor for why cataracts happen. UV radiation can lead to the accumulation of oxidative damage in the eye’s lens proteins, increasing the likelihood of cataract formation. This risk is heightened with age because ageing is the primary cause of cataracts, and the cumulative exposure to UV radiation over time exacerbates the age-related changes in the lens, making cataracts more likely to develop as one gets older. It’s essential to protect the eyes from UV radiation through measures like wearing sunglasses to reduce the risk of cataracts, particularly as we age.
Can Sunglasses Help Existing Cataracts?
Cataracts can only be effectively fixed through surgery, as it involves the removal of the cloudy natural lens and its replacement with an artificial one. However, wearing sunglasses with UV protection is important to prevent further damage to the eyes and to reduce the risk of cataract development, especially in bright sunlight.
It’s advisable to wear sunglasses even during brief periods of sun exposure because cumulative UV exposure over time can contribute to cataracts and other eye issues. Consistent use of sunglasses helps maintain long-term eye health.
Using high quality sunglasses can help in the battle against cataract formation
What Types of Sunglasses Help Prevent Cataracts?
To effectively prevent UV damage and reduce the risk of cataracts, individuals should choose sunglasses with the following key factors:
100% UVA and UVB Protection: Look for sunglasses that provide 100% UVA and UVB protection and ideally have UV400 protection. These labels should be clearly marked on the sunglasses, ensuring they block out both types of harmful ultraviolet rays.
Polarised Lenses: Polarised lenses reduce glare and are particularly beneficial for outdoor activities like skiing, as they improve visual comfort and clarity.
Adequate Lens Size: Larger lenses or wraparound styles offer better coverage, helping to shield the eyes from UV radiation coming from various angles.
Lens Material: Opt for lenses made from materials like polycarbonate or Trivex, as they are more impact-resistant and durable.
Lens Colour: It is important to check what category tint your sunglasses are before purchase. Those that fall in category 0 are clear or light lenses, and those in category 4 are very dark, for intense sunlight. Category 4 is not legal for driving. If in doubt, discuss with your local dispensing optician and optometrist, as tints on your windscreen may have an additive effect on how much light is coming to your eyes and will also need to be considered. It is important to note that darker lenses do not mean better protection; if the UV protection is there, tint is a personal choice.
Consider Sport-Specific Models: If you engage in specific outdoor activities, consider sport-specific sunglasses tailored to those activities, as they often offer additional features such as impact resistance and specialised lens tints.
Replacement of damaged lenses: It’s advisable to replace lenses, especially if they are scratched or damaged.
Check for Labels: Look for labels or certifications that indicate compliance with local and international standards for UV protection. To meet the required standards, they should be CE or UKCA-marked. (European conformity) or the ANSI Z80.3 standard (American National Standards Institute).
By choosing sunglasses with these features and considerations, individuals can significantly reduce their exposure to harmful UV rays, safeguard their eye health, and lower the risk of cataract development.
What next? Get in Touch for Free, No-Obligation Advice.
At Optegra, we carry out tens of thousands of cataract procedures each year, with an impressive success rate of 99.6%. Learn more about cataract surgery at Optegra or book a no-obligation, free consultation for expert help and advice.
By Author: Shafiq Rehman
Mr Rehman is a highly acclaimed ophthalmologist with 27 years of experience.
Medically Reviewed Date: 9th November 2023