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UV Blocking Contact Lenses

Almost everyone is aware of the damage the solar energy, including ultra-violet radiation (UV) can do to the skin. What is not widely known is the damage that the ultra-violet radiation does to our eyes.

Solar radiation reaching the exterior of the eye is focused and concentrated by the cornea. The rays that pass through the pupil of the eye are absorbed by the lens of the eye. This UV radiation may cause cataracts in the lens of our eyes. Studies show that the radiation reaches the eye from above, below and the sides which reach the tissue on the opposite side of the eye which may cause changes in our eyes tissues that can lead to certain eye defects.

The American Optometric Association (AOA) recommends the use of sunglasses that blocks 99-100% UV rays (both UV-A and UV-B) to guard the eyes. Nevertheless, some styles of sunglasses do not guarantee eye protection from solar radiation because it can enter from the sides or around it. This is where UV blocking contact lenses come in handy, since it reduces the amount of radiation that reaches the surface of the eyes and offers additional protection from it. These contact lenses also protect the area of the eyes from radiation which comes above or around the side of sunglasses which the sunglasses cannot shield.

What are UV blocking contact lenses?

With the increase in interest in UV exposure and the potential vision damage that it can bring, UV blocking contact lenses are becoming an extensively popular choice for outdoor enthusiasts.

UV blocking contact lenses offer an affordable and comfortable way to reduce the damage brought about by the radiation to our eyes. When it is used in combination of UV-blocking sunglasses, the UV-blocking compound which exists in the formulation process of contact lens materials offers superb protection when you're out in the field, on the tennis court or when you go swimming.

It wasn't until the year 1999 that the benefits of wearing UV blocking contact lenses were realized. From their extensive research, researchers have determined that UV blocking contact lenses do provide significant defense against UV radiation. These UV blocking contact lenses are offered either in RGP lenses or soft contact lenses.

Is it FDA approved?

Yes it is approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). However, it has standards for UV blocking contact lenses based on American National Standards Institute (ANSI) Z80.20 standards. There are 2 different classifications of UV blocking contact lenses:

  1. FDA Class I blocker - this is recommended for high exposure environments, such as the beaches or mountains. The lenses in this classification must block more than:
    • 99% of UV-A with (316-380 nm wavelengths) and
    • 99% of UV-B with (280-315 nm)
  2. FDA Class II blocker - suggested for general purposes. These UV blocking lenses must block more than:
    • 70% of UV-A
    • 5% of UV-B

The AOA Seal of Acceptance identifies ophthalmic products that follow to high standards. While products that has been honored with the AOA Seal of Acceptance for UV absorbing contact lenses are based on the FDA Class I classifications.

Identifying Candidates

Ophthalmologists suggests that everyone who is prescribed to wear contact lenses should also be provided with UV blocking contact lenses. Especially the younger ones since they are most at risk because of the ophthalmic UV-filtering capabilities of their crystalline lenses are less effective at a young age. For older patients, doctors recommend the use of UV blocking contact lenses because of:

  • Diseased corneas
  • Aphakia or an intraocular lens
  • Post refractive surgery care needs
  • Occupational risks (such as construction work)
  • Non-solar exposure (e.g. welding)

Contact lenses that offer UV blocking protection

  1. Precision UV contact lenses - a product of Ciba Vision that has UV protection lens which combines a convenient and comfortable design having 90% defense from harmful UV rays.
  2. Acuvue Advance and Acuvue Oasys - carries the Seal of Acceptance for UV absorbing contact lenses from AOA's Commission on Ophthalmic Standards. These lenses offers the highest level of UV blocking available, more than 90% of UV-A rays and 99% UV-B rays that reaches the lens.
  3. 1 Day Acuvue - the first disposable contact lens that provides UV blocking that is great for people who want convenient yet at the same time healthy contact lenses.

Always seek the help of your eye doctor first about the options available to you before making decisions as to whether you should try this kind of contact lens. Not all contact lenses have UV blocking components and you won't be able to tell just by looking at the lenses.


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