The Importance of UV Protection

Kelly Voltz

With heightened awareness around the importance of UV protection in the summer months, we took a moment to talk with Kelly Voltz, OD about how she approaches UV protection for her own patients in Portland, Oregon.

Q: There are several awareness campaigns around UV protection from May through July each year. How do you discuss UV protection in general with your patients? How often does it come up?
A: On a daily basis I discuss the importance of UV protection with my patients. Living in Portland, my patient base is very active- typically spending the weekends camping, biking, and rock climbing. Not only are patients looking for optical solutions for these activities but they are also looking for the best UV protection.  Being in a high volume contact lens practice, having the ability to offer UV protection¹ through contact lenses has been a great added benefit to my active patients. For new contact lens wearers, having the option for UV protection may be why one lens is chosen over another. Discussing UV protection is an essential part of my exam and is easy to implement as more patients are seeking new technology and the best options for ocular wellness.

Q: Has new concern around blue light and options to protect from it become a part of that conversation? How do you address it?
A: Discussion around blue light protection is so common, it may actually surpass how often patients inquire about UV protection. Addressing concerns regarding blue light is all about education. First I like to educate my patients on the difference between UVA and UVB rays versus blue light. This paints a picture for them and allows them to understand how blue light may be helpful or harmful. Most patients’ occupations now involve a lot of screen time. Clarifying what blue light protection 
Q: How important is UV protection in contact lenses? 
A: Contact lens technology now allows for UV protection to be embedded in the contact lens. For those who are current contact lens wearers or thinking about contact lens wear, this is an amazing added benefit. If a patient is wearing lenses outdoors, why wouldn’t they want the option for UV protection? When picking a contact lens trial for a patient, I always ask about their lifestyle or what they would like to use the contact lenses for. Any patient who is interested in lenses for sports or outdoor activities, there is no question that I am going to look for a lens with added UV protection. Offering them something they didn’t realize was an option is also really rewarding and shows your patients you’re well informed on what’s new in the marketplace. 
Q: Do you regularly recommend sunglasses in addition to UV protective contact lenses? 
A: Just like patients have the option of wearing glasses or contact lenses, patients now also have the option of how they would like to protect their eyes from harmful UV light rays. The patient’s lifestyle will be the best guide to what mode of protection works best for them. For contact lens wearers, having the added benefit of UV protection is both convenient and cost effective. For patients in tougher environments where dust, dirt, or fumes are present, I’d tend to guide them more towards spectacles with UV protection to provide a barrier to these contaminants and prevent infections and ocular irritation. There is a place for both UV protective sunglasses and contact lenses for each patient, and educating on which options may works best when has been the easiest approach for my patients understanding the need for both.
Q: How important is it to educate staff on the need for UV protection for patients? How do you approach keeping them current?
A: The staff in an office, whether it is opticians or technicians, may be the first or only person a patient interacts with. If you’re working to get a message across to your patients, it is important that everyone in the office be provided with knowledge on the subject and feel comfortable answering patient questions. In the case of UV protection, everyone in the office from the doctor to opticians to billing should be educated on general background information and have the same goal in educating your patient base. The patient may have a question while choosing frames, while in the exam room, or while checking out for the day and if everyone can provide the same answer it shows unity and further reinforces the importance of the subject in your office space.

Q: How does offering a complete range of UV protection options help your practice? 
A: Offering a complete range of UV protection, whether it is through glasses or contact lenses, provides patients with a large array of options which they can discuss with their eye care provider on what suits their lifestyle the best. Patients may opt to wear contact lenses with UV protection while being active in the community or exercising, while others prefer to keep a pair of UV protection sunglasses in the car for convenience while driving. Providing your patients with a variety of options can allow patients to choose what works best for their lifestyle and finances. If you’re not already educating your patients on UV protection and offering solutions, someone else will. Go the extra mile, taking the time to discuss UV protection can increase your patient base and capture rate.

Q: Any additional tips, pearls or insights around UV protection?
A: I have two:

  • There are different levels of UV protection. Sunglasses with adequate protection will usually be labeled with either “100% protection against UV 400” or “100% protection against both UVA and UVB”. Patient’s should not confuse this with blue light (400-440nm) protection. 
  • Children spend lots of time outdoors, don’t forget about options for UV protection for them, especially during the summer months!

Avaira Vitality™ offers Class I UV protection for all of your 2-week replacement patients. Read more in this month’s Product Spotlight.

  1. Warning: UV-absorbing contact lenses are not substitutes for protective UV-absorbing eyewear, such as UV- absorbing goggles or sunglasses, because they do not completely cover the eye and surrounding area. Patients should continue to use UV-absorbing eyewear as directed
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