According to the World Health Organization, 80 percent of children’s UV exposure occurs before turning 18. If this is true, why aren’t more kids wearing sunglasses?
Eye protection from the sun is essential for all ages, but especially for kids. Most children receive more annual sun exposure than adults. This increased exposure to sunlight increases the risk of eye damage from ultraviolet (UV) light.
UV Exposure and Eye Problems
Adults have a mature lens, but children’s eyes cannot filter out UV rays as efficiently. “UV radiation, whether from natural sunlight or indoor artificial rays, can damage the eye’s surface tissues as well as the cornea and lens,” said ophthalmologist Michael Kutryb, MD, a spokesperson for the American Academy of Ophthalmology. “Unfortunately, many people are unaware of the dangers UV light can pose.”
By encouraging your children to wear sunglasses, you can help prevent them from developing:
- Photokeratitis, or sunburn of the eye. This is a temporary condition from UV rays reflecting off water, snow, ice or sand.
- Growths on the eye, like pterygium. This condition often affects young people in their teens and 20s like skiers, surfers or those who spend long days in the sun.
- Cataracts, a common form of vision loss. A cataract forms when proteins in the eye lens clump together and the lens gets cloudy. UV exposure can hasten this process.
- Macular degeneration, a condition that destroys the sharp, central vision, which is needed to see objects clearly.
- Eye cancer, a rare but serious condition.
Choosing the Right Sunglasses to Protect Children’s Vision
Make eye protection a daily habit for the whole family. Because sun damage is cumulative, it is best to begin UV protection at an early age. Here are some ways you can decrease your children’s UV exposure:
- Purchase sunglasses with 100 percent UVA and UVB protection. Sunglasses do not need to be expensive, but they should meet the American National Standards Institute guidelines. Glasses should block between 99 and 100 percent of UVA (long-length) and UVB (short-length) rays. If your child wears corrective lenses, consider photochromic (transition) lenses. Transition lenses offer 100 percent UV protection.
- Select a wraparound lens. It is essential to protect the sides of the eyes, so choose a wraparound lens covering more skin. You can let your child help select the style, but make sure the sunglasses are durable as well.
- Choose the right sunglasses for activities. If your child is in sports, you may want to consider impact-resistant, scratch-proof polycarbonate lenses. Green or amber lenses are also great for contrast.
- Buy a spare pair of shades. Everyone forgets things from time to time, so keep a pair of sunglasses in each car or your bag.
- Be the example. Parents should wear sunglasses daily to set the standard for proper eye care.
- Apply sunscreen and wear hats. In conjunction with sunglasses, have your children wear sunscreen and a wide-brimmed hat to minimize UV exposure (Medical Xpress).
Schedule a Comprehensive Eye Exam
Another essential component of vision health is a comprehensive eye exam. Has it been over a year since you saw your eye doctor? Then, it may be time to call the office and schedule exams for the family.
A complete eye exam takes less than an hour, and it tests for refractive errors, focusing problems and common eye diseases like cataracts, glaucoma and macular degeneration. If your doctor detects a vision problem, you can begin treatment right away.