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Ultraviolet Absorption by Contact Lenses and the Significance on the Ocular Anterior Segment

Chandler, Heather Ph.D.

Eye & Contact Lens: Science & Clinical Practice: July 2011 - Volume 37 - Issue 4 - p 259-266
doi: 10.1097/ICL.0b013e3182240945

It is well established that both acute and chronic ultraviolet (UV) exposure can lead to various ophthalmic pathologic conditions in the anterior segment. Several scientific studies have demonstrated that after UV exposure, the unprotected cornea is vulnerable to damage in the epithelial, stromal, and endothelial cellular layers. DNA damage, apoptosis, and altered protease expression are all examples of harmful changes that can occur within the cornea after irradiation. Beyond the cornea, damage associated with UV exposure, such as decreased antioxidant levels and increased reactive oxygen species production, has been noted in the aqueous humor and crystalline lens. Ultraviolet-blocking contact lenses have the potential to provide protection against such exposure to harmful UV radiation. Experimental use of UV-absorbing contact lenses prevented detrimental cellular changes to the cornea and maintained corneal clarity after UV exposure. Additionally, studies suggest that shielding the aqueous humor and crystalline lens from irradiation with UV-absorbing contact lenses aids in protection against precataractous changes. Despite ongoing research, to date, neither chronic nor clinical studies have been performed in humans to demonstrate that wearing UV-blocking contact lenses reduces the risk of developing cataracts or other ocular disorders within the anterior segment. This article will discuss the impact of UV exposure on ocular tissue and the need for adequate UV protection, with particular emphasis on UV-blocking contact lenses.

From the College of Optometry, Ohio State University (H.C.), Columbus, OH.

Supported by Contact Lens Association of Ophthalmologists, Inc.

Address correspondence and reprint requests to Heather Chandler, Ph.D., The Ohio State University, 320 W, 10th Avenue, Columbus, OH 43210; e-mail:

Accepted May 11, 2011.

© 2011 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.