AOP launches campaign on UV and eye health

The SPF for your eyes campaign advises the public of the importance of UV protection, with less than half of UK adults surveyed owning sunglasses with UV protection

woman wearing sunglasses
Pexels/Artem Beliaikin

Highlighting the importance of UV protection, the AOP is launching a new campaign to remind the public to protect their eyes by wearing CE-marked sunglasses in all seasons.

The SPF for your eyes campaign launched today (27 July) and will run until the end of September. Through the campaign, the AOP is advising the public to protect their eyes as they would seek to protect their skin from sun damage. 

Releasing research from an AOP Voice of Optometry survey of 1207 participants, the association revealed that almost a quarter of optometrists see up to nine patients every month with an eye disease linked to UV exposure, with 15% reporting that they see more than 20.

However, data from a poll of the UK public revealed that two fifths were unaware that too much UV exposure can contribute to sight threatening conditions, such as cataract, age-related macular degeneration and eye cancers.

Through the new campaign, the association is advising the public of the potential risks of sun damage, and how they can reduce them, with AOP spokesperson and OT clinical multimedia editor, Ceri Smith-Jaynes, sharing that while most people know that the sun causes skin damage, “few realise it is just as damaging to their eyes.”

“Our SPF for your eyes campaign is about highlighting how the public can reduce the risk and also provide them with simple, effective tips that they remember and use,” the optometrist added.

 The public research, shared by the AOP, found 46% of respondents said they owned a pair of sunglasses, but of those who did, 24% admitted to only sometimes checking UV protection when purchasing a pair.

Those aged over 55 were found to be more conscious of this, however, with three quarters reporting that they always check the UV filter before purchasing.

The AOP also highlighted that, while World Health Organization figures suggest an estimated 80% of UV damage happens before the age of 18, poll data found that only a quarter of parents are putting sunglasses with UV protection on their children and a third (31%) admitted they rarely or never do.

As part of the campaign, the AOP is advising the public to purchase a good-quality and well-fitting pair of sunglasses with the CE mark. The association has released a number of tips and resources including a 60-second advice video on how to best protect eyes against UV damage.

“A key message of the campaign is that UV can also be damaging on dull days,” explained Smith-Jaynes, “So it’s good to get in the habit of wearing sunglasses and thinking about giving your eyes full UV protection in all seasons – not just on bright, sunny days.”

Patients who use a contact lens with a UV filter, are also reminded to wear sunglasses, with the AOP noting that this will help to protect the skin around the eye.

Advice includes checking prescription lenses include a UV filter for everyday protection, choosing sunglasses that sit closer to the eye and wrap-around, and wearing a wide-brimmed sun hat. The association is also reminding patients to never look at the sun directly.

Conditions that AOP optometrist members reported seeing the most often included pinguecula and pterygium, age-related macular degeneration and premature cataracts, while less common conditions included basal cell carcinoma and photokeratitis.

AOP members can participate in the campaign by downloading the campaign pack, which can be found on the website. The pack includes resources to use in practice, online and on social media.

Practices can also use #EyeSPF to participate in the campaign on social media.

The public research was carried out by Opinium Research through an online survey of 2000 respondents across the UK.