Cumulative damage

Non-visible UV rays emitted by the sun are one of the biggest causes of cataracts. Cataracts are charactarized by a gradual clouding of the eye’s lens and can lead to seriously impaired vision. At the current time, surgery is the only way to treat the condition.

The most effective way of protecting yourself against non-visible UV and the possibility of cataracts is by wearing sunglasses whenever you’re out in the sun. “I tell every one of my patients to wear sunglasses that offer 100 percent UVA and UVB protection. It’s very important to invest in something to protect yourself,” says Dr. Jerry Nolfi, an optometrist and co-founder of the Toronto Eye Care Optometric Clinic.

“Blue-violet light is the most energetic source of light that’s able to reach the eye’s retinal cells, and it’s a major risk factor contributing to the early onset of AMD.”

Children are most at risk of having their lens penetrated by UV due to the transparent nature of young eyes, explains Dr. Upen Kawale, an optometrist and fellow co-founder of the Toronto Eye Care Optometric Clinic. “UV damage is cumulative over your lifetime, so make sure you get your kids to wear glasses with protection too,” he says.

Hidden danger

Recent studies conducted by the Paris Vision Institute have discovered a type of light that’s potentially as harmful to our eyes as UV rays. Known as blue-violet light, this type of High Energy Visible (HEV) light gives off no visual signs as to its presence, making it even more hazardous.

Blue-violet light is the most energetic source of light that’s able to reach the eye’s retinal cells, and it’s a major risk factor contributing to the early onset of AMD, a condition that leads to the gradual loss of central vision and is the leading cause of blindness in the developed world. There is currently no known cure for AMD.

Blue-turquoise light is essential to synchronizing the human biological clock​

The Sun emits blue-violet light year-round, regardless of the weather, but its risks are also a lot closer to home, as Dr. Nolfi explains. “New indoor lighting, computer screens, tablets, cell phones, LEDs — they all emit a great deal of blue-violet light wavelengths that can reach deep into the eye and do damage over a period of time,” he says. “But don’t confuse blue-violet light for blue-turquoise light, which humans actually need for our biological clock synchronization.”

Essential protection

There’s no chance that any of us are going to suddenly pack away our tablets or stop tweeting on our cell phones, so making sure that our eyes are properly protected is imperative. Luckily, there are products now available that help to completely block blue-violet light from reaching your retinas.

“Most people understand that you need UV protected sunglasses when you’re outside, but you need protection inside now, too,” says Dr. Nolfi. “There are coatings that can be implemented onto normal spectacles that selectively filter out blue-violet light, but allow blue-turquoise light to get through.”

When it comes to cataracts and AMD, prevention is key. Don’t put the health of your eyes on hold, act today and help reduce your personal risk factors. “There’s enough medical evidence to know that we need to be proactive,” says Dr. Nolfi. “People don’t quite understand the importance of blue-violet light but hopefully, with articles like this, we can make people more aware.”