This is a sponsored post by Johnson & Johnson Vision Care, Inc., a supporter of NewGradOptometry & new graduate optometrists! 😎
The harmful effects of ultraviolet (UV) light on the eyes have been known for a very long time. There is concrete evidence in the world’s literature to support the fact that UV light can exacerbate and lead to the development of cataract formation and anterior segment pathology such as photokeratitis.1,2 As optometrists focus their efforts to educate patients on these risks and the necessity to protect the eyes against this potential harm with the use of sunglasses among other means, there is an additional tool in the tool-belt that we may be overlooking, certain contact lenses.
There are three types of UV light:
- UVA – has a wavelength of 315nm to 380nm and is associated with tanning, but also is linked to aging.
- UVB – has a wavelength of 280nm to 315nm and is associated with sunburn. It is a more damaging form of UV light.
- UVC – has a wavelength of 100nm to 280nm and is associated with skin cancer. Most of UVC is absorbed in the ozone layer
UVC is mostly filtered by the atmosphere. The UVC light that actually does reach the Earth’s surface and enters the eye is absorbed by the cornea.3 It is UVB and UVA that have been shown to contribute to cataract formation.2
Unfortunately, studies have shown that young eyes are more vulnerable to UV exposure than older eyes4, which means that most UV damage has been done by the time a person reaches adulthood! For example, up to 75% of UVA is transmitted to the retina of a child eight years old. By the time that child reaches 13, that percentage drops to 60%, and essentially levels off at less than 5% at 25+ years of age.4
What does all of this mean for optometrists?
It is imperative with all of the knowledge we have and possess, we care for our patients in the best way possible. Part of that is making recommendations and educating our patients on the risks of UV light and what we can do to combat it. One of those recommendations should include UV blocking contact lenses in addition to sunglasses and wide-brimmed hats.
ACUVUE OASYS® and 1-DAY ACUVUE® TruEye® Brand Contact Lenses offer Class 1 protection against ultraviolet light, offering >90% protection against UVA and >99% protection against UVB light. There are some other lenses in the market that offer UV protection, primarily limited to Class 2 (>50% UVA and >95% UVB) protection including some of ACUVUE® Brand other lens options as well as ClearSight® 1 Day and Bausch & Lomb BioTrue® One Day.
VISTAKON® makes this possible by utilizing different photoinitiators (responsible for the polymerization process) when fabricating their lenses. Many contact lens manufacturers utilize ultraviolet light as the photoinitiator in the creation process. This in turn neutralizes any UV filtering additives combined with their monomer mixture rendering the contact lens incapable of blocking UV light.
Who can benefit from these lenses?
Everyone can benefit from UV protection.
It is never too late to start protecting the eyes and it is imperative to start early on in life as the harmful effects of UV exposure are cumulative and happen over time. Children and teens are in the age demographic that is most susceptible to UV penetration, so these patients can benefit even more from an ocular health standpoint.
Why is it better for your practice?
The most powerful source of referrals in a practice is usually word-of-mouth.
Get a discussion started with parents and why it is important their kids be protected outside, and how specific contact lenses can help assist in this process, and not only will you look like a more competent clinician, but it will show your patients you truly care about their well-being.
This not only will get your patients talking about you and how they value your expertise, but moms will talk to other moms, dads to other dads, and your practice can truly grow, strengthen, and benefit simply by providing information and proper care to your patients.
There are many practices and offices all doing the same things including routine examinations, disease management, imaging, selling glasses and contacts among other optical entities.
It is critical to set yourself apart.
One way to do that is to take the extra minute to educate your patient. Having a discussion about ultraviolet light is something that most clinicians do not do. By educating your patient on an important topic and recommending a specific lens brand and composition based on that topic, not only do you separate yourself from the average clinician, you leave a lasting impression on that patient. He or she will be much more likely to return to your practice and trust your professional recommendations.
This leads to better patient retention, as opposed to the clinician who simply suggests a lens or leaves it up to the patient to decide. Something so simple and easy to do can reap tremendous rewards in terms of practice growth.
Identifying target patients:
Obviously there are countless contact lenses on the market, and all of them offer different benefits and purposes in the care of our patients.
The truth is, sometimes, a lens without UV blocking properties may be better for a patient.
We can keep certain things in mind as we learn about our patients to help determine which patients are at a high risk of UV exposure and potential damage, and make lens decisions based on this information.
Some important lifestyle questions to consider when evaluating what lens to utilize on our patients include:
- Does your patient spend a lot of time outside or in the outdoors?
- Do you live in a mountainous area or in the south and southwestern regions of the United States?
- Does the patient weld, tan, or spend a lot of time skiing or at the beach?
- Is the patient at an increased risk for sensitivity to UV radiation from using various prescription and over-the-counter medications such as: ibuprofen, oral contraceptives and antidepressants, antibiotics, diuretics, and oral and topical retinoids5.
- Is the patient pseudophakic?
Patients who meet these criteria are at a higher risk of UV exposure and penetration and can benefit from UV blocking contact lenses.
Key Facts to Consider:
- Wearing contact lenses with UV blocking properties is not enough by itself to provide adequate protection against the harmful effects of UV light. It is important to incorporate and recommend concurrent forms of protection like the use of wide-brim hats and UV blocking sunglasses.
- UV rays reflect off of many surfaces including sand, snow, and water.
- Higher altitudes correlate to increased risk of UV exposure.
- The eyes are exposed to ultraviolet light at all times throughout the day, not just when the sun is at it’s peak.
- Wearing sunglasses that block 100% of UV rays may still not be enough protection due to various frame designs, styles, and shape.
- Even on cloudy and overcast days, we are still exposed to UV light.
Keep in mind the AOA Guidelines for sunglass protection6.
To provide adequate protection for your eyes, sunglasses should:
- block out 99 to 100 percent of both UV-A and UV-B radiation;
- screen out 75 to 90 percent of visible light;
- be perfectly matched in color and free of distortion and imperfection; and
- have lenses that are gray for proper color recognition
- Ultraviolet light has been well known to cause ocular implications.
- Young eyes are more vulnerable to UV exposure.
- UV damage is cumulative and compounds over time.
- Contact lenses are not enough by themselves to provide complete protection against UV and should be combined with other protective means.
- It is never too soon to begin a protective strategy against ultraviolet radiation.
- Protecting our patients against the harmful effects of UV light is not only important to help ensure the ocular well being of our patients, but can also help show our expertise and build our practices.
- Be aware of the available resources out there.
- Roberts, J. E. “Ultraviolet Radiation as a Risk Factor for Cataract and Macular Degeneration.” PubMed. Eye Contact Lens, July 2011. Web. 7 Aug. 2014. <http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21617534>.
- Taylor HR, West S, Muñoz B, et al. The long-term effects of visible light on the eye. Arch Ophthalmol. 1992 Jan;110(1):99-104.
- Chandler, H. L., K. S. Reuter, L. T. Sinnott, and J. J. Nichols. “Prevention of UV-Induced Damage to the Anterior Segment Using Class I UV-Absorbing Hydrogel Contact Lenses.” Investigative Ophthalmology & Visual Science 51.1 (2010): 172-78. Web.
- Van Kuijk, F. J. “Effects of Ultraviolet Light on the Eye: Role of Protective Glasses.” Environmental Health Perspectives 96 (1991): 177-84.
- “Skin Cancer Foundation.” The Photosensitivity Report. Skin Cancer Foundation, 2014. Web. 10 Aug. 2014.
- “UV Protection.” UV Protection. American Optometric Association, 2014. Web. 07 Aug. 2014.
WARNING: UV-absorbing contact lenses are NOT substitutes for protective UV-absorbing eyewear such as UV-absorbing goggles or sunglasses because they do not completely cover the eye and surrounding area. You should continue to use UV-absorbing eyewear as directed. NOTE: Long-term exposure to UV radiation is one of the risk factors associated with cataracts. Exposure is based on a number of factors such as environmental conditions (altitude, geography, cloud cover) and personal factors (extent and nature of outdoor activities). UV-blocking contact lenses help provide protection against harmful UV radiation. However, clinical studies have not been done to demonstrate that wearing UV-blocking contact lenses reduces the risk of developing cataracts or other eye disorders. Consult your eye care practitioner for more information. ACUVUE® Brand Contact Lenses are indicated for vision correction. Eye problems, including corneal ulcers, can develop. Some wearers may experience mild irritation, itching or discomfort. Lenses should not be prescribed if patients have any eye infection, or experience eye discomfort, excessive tearing, vision changes, redness or other eye problems. Consult the package insert for complete information. Complete information is also available from VISTAKON®, Division of Johnson & Johnson Vision Care, Inc., by calling 1-800-843-2020 or by visiting acuvueprofessional.com.
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