Johnson & Johnson conducted a study using rabbits and concluded that UV absorbing contact lenses significantly reduced the UV induced changes in the cornea, aqueous humor (fluid in the eye) and the lens. The study authors concluded that UV absorbent contact lenses were capable of protecting the cornea and crystalline lens of rabbit eyes from UV induced changes.
So the question is how does this affect humans? There are a number of contact lenses on the market today that block most of the UV rays. While we can’t guarantee that the results of the study would apply to humans we can generally infer that wearing this type of contact lens is beneficial for patients that spend a lot of time outdoors and do not wear sunglasses.
UV absorbent lenses do not protect our conjunctiva. The conjunctiva is the clear membrane that covers the blood vessels over the white part of the eye. This is an important reason as to why UV absorbent contact lenses are not a replacement for quality sunglasses. Excessive exposure to UV light on the conjunctiva is a leading cause for pterygia and pinguecula. A pterygium is the fleshy growth that grows over the colored part of the eye, usually located at 3:00 or 9:00. A pinguecula is the yellow bump on the white part of the eye, which is also located at 3:00 or 9:00.
While not a replacement for good sunglasses, using UV absorbent contact lenses, especially in children, is a good practice.