Prolonged exposure to UV radiation from the sun can cause cataracts and macular degeneration and can lead to permanent eye damage and even blindness. Prevention by wearing quality sunglasses that block at least 99% of harmful rays from the sun significantly reduce the chances of these problems.

Also, some contact wearers receive added protection against harmful sun damage to the eyes in the form of UV protection built into their contacts. While some lenses offer little or no UV protection, others provide substantial protection. In fact, research indicates that UV contacts in conjunction with sunglasses that provide UV protection provide better UV protection that just sunglasses alone.

If contacts protect against UV light, they are labeled as either a Class I or Class II blocker.

  • Class I blocker  Recommended for high exposure environments such as mountains or beaches. Lenses block at least 90% of UVA and 99% of UVB light.
  • Class II blocker  Recommended for general, everyday use. Lenses block at least 70% of UVA and 95% of UVB light.

Check with your eye care provider concerning the UV rating on your contacts if you are unsure. If your lenses do not provide UV protection, request contacts that do to have this added, everyday protection.

Keep in mind that research also warns against relying on UV contacts alone for protecting eyes from sun damage. Since UV contacts in general block at least 10% less UV light than sunglasses with the amount being blocked varying from one pair of contacts to the next, they do not provide the best protection available.

Only wearing sunglasses that protect against at least 99% of UV rays, regardless of if you’re wearing contacts or not, provides essential protection for eyes against the sun’s harmful rays. However, wearing UV contacts in addition to sunglasses brings added, whole-eye protection that sunglasses alone usually cannot provide.

Wraparound sunglasses offer the best option for full-eye sun protection since traditional style sunglasses alone fail to prevent all UV rays from reaching the eyes as direct and indirect sunlight that shines through the top, sides and bottoms of glasses. UV Protection with Contact Lenses provides protection to the areas traditional sunglasses leave exposed.

Taking the idea of complete protection even further, adding a wide-brimmed hat that covers 1″ or more in front of the eye when wearing UV sunglasses and contacts provides the ideal solution for prolonged sun exposure if not wearing wraparound sunglasses. Individuals who work and spend the majority of their days in the sun “” lifeguards, ski patrol, construction workers, etc. “” should wear wraparound style sunglasses.

Just like all sunglasses are not created equal and making sure you purchase quality sunglasses is essential, so too is the case with contacts. As already mentioned, not all UV contact lenses provide the same amount of UV protection, and some contacts provide no protection at all against the sun.

The bottom line is that UV contacts alone do not provide as much protection as sunglasses alone, especially wraparound styles. But together, quality UV contacts plus sunglasses provide reliable protection for eyes against the sun’s harmful rays.

For more information on UV contacts, including their benefits and the brands available, check out the following resources: