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Sunglasses Are Not An Option
Blinded By The (UV) Light

By Anthony Record, Optician
From an article appearing in

Eye Care Professional Magazine

Anthony Record

Some recent surveys and statistics regarding sun protection, patient knowledge, and the actions of eye care professionals have caused me great concern.

Consider some of the following eye-opening (pun intended) findings: According to a 2010 Eye-Q Survey, 35% of American adults are completely unaware of the eye-health risks associated with spending too much time in the sun. That means that more than one in three of the patients who walk through our door are in need of some eye education. And I hate to say it, but the 35% who are aware of the dangers of UV exposure may not have ECPs to thank for that.

ECPs fail to educate the public about UV-sun exposure issues.

The UV Index that was developed by the Environmental Protection Agency and the National Weather Service has made many Americans aware of sunburn and skin cancer as it relates to sun exposure. It’s up to ECPs to communicate that pingueculae, pterygia, and photokeratitis can all be caused by not protecting the eye against ultraviolet rays. More serious ocular conditions such as cataracts and age-related macular degeneration (ARMD) are of paramount concern.

People need protection.


See what happens without it.

If the fact that 35% of our patients are blissfully unaware of the dangers of UV exposure isn’t enough to cause concern, how about this one: 33% of Americans who wear prescription eyeglasses are unaware that sunglasses are even available in prescription form. How can that be? Most ECPs simply cannot believe that statistic. You have to remember that the reason why one in three people don’t know they can get prescription eyewear is that they are ECLPs not ECPs – an ECLP of course, being an Eye Care Lay Person! They simply do not have the knowledge and training that we do.

A year earlier, in a 2009 Eye-Q survey, it was determined that only 38% of prescription eyeglass wearers owned a second, separate pair of prescription sunglasses - again, just more than one in three. There are many reasons for this dismal statistic. Just how culpable are front-line ECPs? Consider these findings, compiled over the last few years by someone I believe to be a completely reliable source: me. It turns out that when it comes to this issue, there’s some good news and some bad news.

Over the last few years as part of my continuing education class entitled Soak Up the Sun - Protecting Your Patients and Your Practice With Prescription Sunglasses, I have surveyed over a thousand dispensing opticians, ophthalmic technicians, and other front-line eye care professionals. One of the questions I posed asked how they feel about prescription sunglasses. Do they think prescription sunglasses are simply an option, somewhat important, very important, or an absolute necessity? As you probably could predict, 94% of all polled ECPs responded by saying prescription sunglasses are an “absolute necessity.” That’s the good news.

Sunglasses in the '50s were an option.

Today, sunglasses are an absolute necessity.

The bad news is revealed in the very next question I posed to the same ECPs in attendance, which sought to discover how often they took steps to actually present the opportunity for their patients to purchase what they themselves described as an “absolute necessity.” I asked the attendees a simple yes or no question: Do you ask every patient who purchases prescription eyeglasses about purchasing a second pair of prescription sunglasses? The results? Shockingly, only 29% of these front-line dispensers answered yes; 71% said no. What that reveals is a disappointing, yet undeniable disconnect. Almost everyone said sunglasses are a necessity not an option, yet less than a third even bring up sunglasses to their clientele.

Obviously this is a great disservice to the people whom we are charged to protect. Additionally, that disconnect is a reason why many of those same opticians have low job satisfaction and suffer from job-related stress. After all, if we have a core value (the need for protective sun wear) and we don’t even bring it up to 71% of our patients, it tends to make us feel not-so-great about the jobs we do. Which leads to the last statistic and consideration.

In the summer months, between the hours of 10:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m., UV exposure accounts for nearly 70% of a person’s yearly dose of ultraviolet radiation. What kind of “person” is most likely to be out in the sun during those hours? Children. I believe children are the one demographic that eye care professionals are truly remiss in protecting their eyes with regard to UV radiation. Remember, 35% of our customer base is unaware of the ocular risks of UV exposure.

Tim, an optician in Jacksonville, Florida, recently shared a disturbing story during a CE lecture. He told our class that on his afternoon drive home from work he routinely sees a young woman jogging in a westerly direction – into the setting sun. According to Jim she is always wearing sunglasses.

Unfortunately, that’s not the case when it comes to the small toddlers in the jogging stroller she pushes in front of her as she burns those pesky calories. Tim described how the kids are routinely squinting, turning away from the sun in obvious discomfort, and shading their eyes with their hands. The mother is obviously oblivious not only to their immediate discomfort, but also to the potential damage she is allowing to occur to the eyes of the kids she loves. Tim feels like he should stop and say something to her, and eventually I bet he will.

Kids, especially, need UV protection.

Children should not be an afterthought when it comes to sunglasses – they should be a top priority. What kind of information can we share with the parents and guardians of the kids we’re trying to protect that might persuade them to invest in sunglasses for them? Begin with a brief explanation about UV exposure, the sun, and the damage they can cause. Remember, more than a third are unaware. Moreover, be sure to inform them that the underdeveloped juvenile eyes are more susceptible to the damage. If that doesn’t convince them, be sure to share the fact that whatever damage is done to the eyes by UV exposure (that causes cataracts, ARMD, etc.) it is cumulative – that is, the damage “adds up” from birth and can cause the premature development of the ocular maladies related to sun damage.

And while most of us would like to see our juvenile patients with a second, separate pair of UV-protective, ideally polarized sunglasses, if the parent/guardian isn’t willing to purchase it, don’t give up. Consider Transitions lenses as a viable alternative to nothing at all. After all, it’s available in polycarbonate, it darkens in the sun, and offers UV protection.

Photochromic lenses are an alternative.

Transitions® and PhotoFusion® Lenses

Photochromic lenses change from clear to sunglass tint automatically.

Additionally, with a pair of Transitions, parents and kids don’t have to worry about keeping track of a second pair, and they are acceptable in most school districts that restrict students from wearing sunglasses on campus - a win-win alternative to the second pair. --

See articles by fellow ECPs.



"Eyewear consumers need and deserve the following:
a) Optician-assisted, in-depth lifestyle interview;
b) Optician-assisted, design and selection;
c) Handcrafted, form-fitting eyewear;
d) Free lifetime adjustments and
minor repair services, none of
which are available online."

Dispensing Guidelines

The most perfect ophthalmic Rx can be
compromised if the eyewear does not
provide comfort and long term wearability.

There is no right or wrong way to dispense
eyewear. There is only the Patient's way. Take
as much time as you need to fit their eyewear.

Patients deserve a pleasant experience.
s deserve as much time as they need.
s deserve custom-fitted prescription eyewear.


Whatever happened to old-fashioned
Hands on the Patient Opticianry?

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