New study shows a third of Brits are risking sight loss by picking sun style over safety

Sun protection

Britons are putting their sight at risk – potentially exposing themselves to cataracts and macular degeneration – by choosing vanity over UV protection when buying sunglasses, new research from Vision Express has revealed.

The study[1] shows that more than one in three (37 per cent) sunglasses-buyers confess they don’t always check UV rating of lenses, despite 94 per cent believing it is important to do so.

Worryingly, the research reveals an over-riding assumption that all sunglasses carry full UVA and UVB protection – meaning this summer up to 20 million people in the UK could be putting their sight at risk.

Omar Hassan, head of professional services at Vision Express, explains: “Our concern highlighted by the research is that people are prioritising style over safety, mistakenly believing that all sunglasses are made to an equal standard to block all harmful UV rays. This just isn’t the case. It’s a huge problem because wearing tinted lenses with no protection ‘tricks’ the pupil into dilating and ultimately may cause more damage to the retina than no protection at all.

“A good pair of sunglasses will filter both UVA and UVB and significantly reduce the risk of eye conditions impacted by exposure to sun rays – this includes cataracts and macular degeneration – which can cause blindness. It’s estimated that every year three million people lose their sight due to prolonged exposure to UV, so while sun-safety is important for our skin, it’s crucial to protect the eyes too. Anyone buying sunglasses off the shelf without prescription should use a reputable retailer and check the frames are CE marked as UV400.”

The research, which combined a national survey and focus groups, found that while 3 in 4 sunglasses-wearers need a prescription, a third of these only purchase non-prescription frames.

Omar added: “It’s important for the public to recognise that not all non-prescription sunglasses will provide adequate sight protection, and counterfeit sunglasses or buying from a market stall or beach vendor should be avoided. At best they could be a rip off – at worst they could be putting your vision at risk.

“Studies tell us two million people in the UK are living with sight loss and forecasters predict a further half a million could lose their sight by the year 2020. So, our advice is to always be ‘sun safe’ when choosing eyewear, seek out an expert to advise on the best lenses for you, and adopt preventative measures to help safeguard sight as you age.”

[1]Online survey by Vision Express, 800 members of the public (nationally representative) in 2015 by Principles Research & Strategy