Across the LASERSIGHT franchises in Australia and Asia, my colleagues and I are seeing our patients achieving their visual goals through excellence in surgical techniques and state of the art equipment. Besides traditional LASIK patients, an increasing number of the patients we see are refractive lens patients, receiving monofocal, multifocal or accommodating lenses. Also, we're beginning to see growing numbers of phakic intra-ocular lenses (eg the Implantable Collamer Lens) in Australia and Asia, as well as increases in Conductive Keratoplasty procedures. Clearly, refractive patients care about their vision; these patients in particular want to protect the better vision that they are able to achieve. To that end, protecting their eyes with sunglasses must be done in consultation with their primary eye care providers, optometrists.
Unfortunately, many people (recent studies suggest as few as 10%) are still uninformed of the potential risks of UV exposure and tend to make their sunglass choice based on fashion rather than protective quality. Optometrists are in the best position to advise these patients on the correct choice of sunglasses.
Optometrists are especially aware that not all commercially available sunglasses actually protect from unwanted and unnecessary radiation in the ultraviolet and infrared spectrum, which can lead to tissue damage. There are three key reasons why choosing the correct sunglasses is essential in maintaining optimum eye health.
Protection of the Lens: Research has correlated cataract formation with hours of solar exposure, especially in sunny climates such as Australia and Southeast Asia. Lens 'yellowing' and photo-degradation are especially problematic, and good eyeglasses, prescribed by an optometrist, can help reduce this risk.
Protection of the Retina: Accumulation of the phototoxic effect of sunlight can injure the retina and macula in the back of the eye, and blue light is especially damaging. Patients who have undergone refractive or cataract lens surgery should pay special attention to proper eyewear for sun protection. Good sunglasses will help enhance nature's protective mechanisms.
Reduction of UV Light: Proper sunglasses filter shorter wavelength visible light, as well as reducing UVA solar radiation. Optometrists know best that the lens color, or the 'darkness' tinting of the lens, are not the critical variables - it is the ability of the sunglasses to filter out undesirable wavelengths.
Luckily in Australia, sunglass manufacturers do need to conform to standards set out by the Australian Standards Council. The availability of good quality sunglasses has never been better, and optometrists are best able to advise patients on the best choices for the correct protection, depending on each individual need. The increased attention of my refractive patients to maintaining good vision through proper sunglass purchase is also extending to my general ophthalmology and cataract practice.