When it comes to eye safety in the sun, Australians are not as clued in as they ought to be. Research conducted in 20191 showed the majority of Australians (73%) were unaware that most damage to the eyes from UV light happens before age 18, while almost half (45%) were not aware of the level of UV protection in their sunglasses. Spectacle wearers fared even worse – a staggering 71% were not aware of how much UV protection their lenses offer.
As we settle into 2021, it is not just sun damage that should have optometrists worried. According to new research, Australians are at increased risk of eye sight decline due to our rapidly changing lifestyles caused by the pandemic. The 2020 Vision Survey2 found that 50% of Australians were experiencing one or more negative effects on their eyesight including tired eyes at the end of the day (reported by 30%), eye strain (24%), and trouble focusing (21%), which they attributed to recent lifestyle changes such as working from home and spending more time indoors using devices.
This ‘double risk’ means people need to do more than just protect themselves from UV. However, they need to be pointed in the right direction to ensure they are making educated choices.
FIVE STEPS TO PROTECTION
Here are five ways you can ensure your patients are well informed and well protected during the summer months:
1. Advise They Get Tested Regularly
Despite the increased risk of vision problems during the pandemic, almost half of Australians in 2020 (43%) said they do not believe their eye sight is enough of a priority to warrant getting an eye test.
If a patient’s home office is not set up properly (or they are working from the kitchen table), their changing work and lifestyle arrangements may have had a large impact on their vision, even if their eyes were recently tested. Encourage patients to get tested and press the ‘restart’ button on their vision.
2. Talk To Patients About UV Impacts
Throughout summer, it is important to talk to all patients and customers about the impact of UV on their eyes. We are fed so much information these days about skin anti-aging and sun damage, but it is equally important that people understand our eyes face the same risks, and the damage begins early. Photoaging of the skin around the eyes, several cancers on the skin around the eye and within the eye, cataracts, macular degeneration and preventable blindness are among the consequences of UV exposure. Consumers need to take this information very seriously. The more we talk about it, the more they will care.
3. Educate Patients About ‘Dynamic Vision’
In addition to the impacts of UV exposure, we are now beginning to fully understand the effects of our changing visual behaviour; i.e. how screen over-use, combined with constant multi-tasking, is changing how we see. Zeiss SmartLife lenses have been designed to address this very situation, using innovative technology to support frequent gaze changes between various distances and directions. In addition to selecting the right lenses, remind patients about ways they can minimise damage due to screens, such as taking frequent breaks, walks outside and ensuring they have ‘switch off ’ time each day.
4. Support UV Eyewear Selection
Zeiss’ 2019 research made it clear that patients need to be shown the basics of UV protection, including the different levels of UV protection, different categories of lens, and how to read labels so they can make smart choices for themselves and their children. For example, some companies claim ‘full UV protection’ on lenses that only protect up to 380nm, when in fact 400nm is required to achieve this. People are also confused by the distinction between things like UV protection and polarisation.
To cover all bases, Zeiss’ new SmartLife Outdoor Lenses have been designed to address both our changing visual behaviour and provide full UV protection. This is a great option for clear lens wearers during summer.
5. Remind Them Of The Basics
Finally, talk to patients about the lifestyle choices they can make that can have a huge impact on their eyes. Not everyone is aware that getting enough fresh air and daylight is vital, especially to prevent myopia – an epidemic that will likely become more prevalent following the global lockdowns of 2020. People should spend at least two hours per day exposed to natural light, provided they use hats, sunscreen, and good eye wear. A healthy diet that’s low in sugar with lots of fresh fruit and vegetables, along with regular exercise, is also vital. Summer is the perfect time to start new habits.
- Zeiss MyEyeQ Report, national survey conducted by Carl Zeiss Vision, February 2019 2. 2020 Vision Survey, national survey conducted by Carl Zeiss Vision, August 2020