Sunlight is essential for health, but it also carries its risks.
A certain amount of UV exposure is very important in the production of natural vitamin D, yet too much UV can be a serious health risk.
However, it isn’t just direct sunlight that exposes us to UV radiation. Whether it’s a stroll in the park on a cloudy day, lying in the shade on holiday or skiing in full sun, UV protection should always be at the forefront of your patients' minds.
- Do you think it is?
- We are well informed about the risks to our skin, is this the case for our eyes (& of course the skin that surrounds them)?
WHO UV index, a guide to increase awareness
The World Health Organisation (WHO) advises that when the UV index rises above two, UV protection should be worn including sunglasses, hat and sunscreen (1)
For the UK, in a given year the UV index averages above two, for eight months of the year March = October (2)
. Take today as an example, we have the same level of UV warning (5/6) as France, Northern Italy and Croatia (3)
Not just on bright sunny days
Unfortunately, it tends to be the direct discomfort of bright light that triggers people to wear sunglasses. Whereas, in reality you can still burn and cause lasting damage on a cloudy day. Up to 40% of the UV can pass through on a completely overcast day and 75% on a partially cloudy day (4)
Opticians and optical suppliers - duty of care
The dermatological companies and retailers on the highstreet have done a fantastic job in educating the population on UV skin protection.
At the very least, the same level of care is required in the eyecare industry.Whilst statistics published by Cancer Research UK (5)
show that 83.8% of people take action to protect their skin from the sun, only 16% admit they wear sunglasses to protect their eyes from UV. Whilst this figure has shown a positive increase, it still remains relatively low.
Opticians and Eye Care professionals have a responsibility to patients to educate and provide with the best form of UV protection for their lifestyle. Ultimately it all starts with us.
1) World Health Organisation - https://www.who.int/uv/faq/whatisuv/en/index3.html
2) Defra. The UV Index and data quality flags
3) Data supplied by weatheronline.co.uk
4) World Health Organistion, Ultraviolet radiation and the INTERSUN Programme
5) Cancer Research UK: Trends in awareness and behaviour relating to UV and sun protection: 2003-2013. Published 2014