By Stephen Cohen, OD
Prescribing contact lenses with UV protection preserves the eye health of patients. It also drives sales of sun protection products in your practice.
Most patients have already learned about the importance of protecting their skin from the harmful effects of the sun’s ultra-violet radiation, but it seems that even here in sunny Scottsdale, Ariz, not nearly as many understand why they should also protect their eyes from the sun. In addition to prescribing quality sunwear from the exam room, I find it useful to explain to patients the sun protecting benefits of the contact lenses I prescribe. Pointing out the added benefit of contact lenses, such as those produced by VISTAKON (ACUVUE Brand), that not only correct vision, but protect eyes from the sun damage that can contribute to cataracts and macular degeneration, emphasizes the importance of investing in sun protecting products in your office. I always recommend UV-blocking contact lenses as part of a comprehensive approach to sun protection that also includes high-quality sunglasses and a wide-brimmed hat. Here is my practice’s approach to making the most of the UV-protecting qualities of the contact lenses we provide to patients.
Stephen Cohen, OD
Education Pennsylvania College of Optometry
Class of 1985
Comprehensive exams annually
“In seven-figure range”
Contact lens patients
UV blocking CL use70-80 percent in UV blocking CLs
Contact lens revenues
35-40 percent derived from contact lens services and sales
Not All Contact Lenses Offer Equal Sun Protection
All contact lenses intrinsically block some–about 10 percent to 20 percent–of UV rays, but there are some contacts on the market that block 70 percent and almost 100 percent of UV radiation. All ACUVUE Brand contacts block at least 70 percent and some block nearly as high as 100 percent. For example, ACUVUE OASYS blocks approximately 96 percent of UV-A and greater than 99 percent of UV-B rays.
Add to Patients Perceived Value of Contacts–and Your Practice
I’ve been on the soapbox on UV protection in contact lenses for a long time now, and see it as a missed opportunity in the eyecare community. Patients come to us for our best recommendation and our authority as eyecare experts. With that in mind, it makes sense to point out all eye health benefits of the products we prescribe. Doing so adds to the perceived value of our products and services.
Most patients are unaware that contact lenses do anything other than correct their vision, so when I can point out the protection from the sun offered by their contacts, it contributes to a “wow” factor. The patient sees that we are offering the most up-to-date, beneficial products. This best-on-the-market recommendation can give patients a sense of your practice as cutting-edge.
Have the Conversation with Parents When Prescribing Contacts
It is becoming more common for children and adolescents to wear contact lenses. Along with pointing out the helpfulness of a vision solution that enables children to go without eyeglasses while playing sports, I explain the sun protection benefits: “The great news is these contacts won’t only help Jenny see the ball much better, they also will help protect her eyes from the sun’s damaging rays. Research shows that a significant amount of all UV damage to eyes occurs before a child turns 18, so this is a great plus to having Jenny wear contacts.”
Educate Your Patients About Dangers of UV
To help parents, caregivers and others better understand the risks associated with UV exposure to the eyes and steps to take to minimize UV exposure, HealthyWomen, an independent health information source for women, is offering a free educational resource:
Fast Facts for Your Health: The Sun & Your Eyes: What You Need to Know was developed with the support of VISTAKON, Division of Johnson & Johnson Vision Care, Inc.
Open Up Conversation to Sunwear
As with all contact lens prescriptions, it is important that you also take the opportunity to prescribe sunwear with UV protection and polarization. But you can also explain that since many patients will not wear their sunglasses when it is cloudy outside, contact lenses that can protect against UV rays come in handy: “Joyce, the sunwear our opticians will show you in our optical shop are important to protect your eyes from the sun, and you should wear them whenever you are outside in the daytime. But for the days when you may decide you don’t feel like wearing your sunglasses because it’s cloudy, your contacts will serve as backup protection. Just because the sun isn’t out doesn’t mean UV rays aren’t still there doing damage to your eyes.”
Explain to Patient Value of “Upgrading” Contact Lenses
For skeptical patients who can’t believe the contacts you are prescribing with UV protection offer anything different from their old contacts, you can use an analogy: “Howard, I can understand why you would want to stick with what you’re used to, but it may be worth switching to a contact lens with newer technology. Think of it like watching an old fashioned television with VHS cassette tapes versus watching a high definition TV with BlueRay technology. The benefits in vision and eye health, including the UV protecting qualities, of these new contacts I am prescribing is akin to that kind of an upgrade.”
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Stephen Cohen, OD, is the owner of Doctor My Eyes in Scottsdale, Ariz. To contact him: email@example.com. Dr. Cohen also is a paid consultant for VISTAKON Division of Johnson & Johnson Vision Care, Inc., and has served as a consultant to Alcon.