Children Need Sunglasses Too
Summer or winter, what you don't know can harm your child's eyes! The beach, the backyard pool...even the ski slopes are very inviting but eye damage can be just around the corner. The most immediate danger is photokeratitis, a painful type of corneal sunburn linked to the bright sunlight reflected off water, sand and snow. Reflected sunlight can double the exposure to harmful UV rays. Long-term exposure to UV light can lead to cataracts, skin cancer around the eyelids and even damage to the retina.
The amount of UV that reaches earth is dependent on the latitude and elevation. More reaches the earth near the equator and at higher elevations. When the sun is directly overhead during mid day, the amount of UV reaching earth is much greater than before 10 AM or after 4 PM.
Ultraviolet damage is cumulative. Exposure to UV light, wind, and dryness can cause pingueculas. These are abnormal, but usually non-cancerous, growths on the white part of the eye near the nose. They can start in the teen years or early adulthood and can grow onto the front part of the cornea, possibly requiring surgical removal. Protection from UV exposure and wind starting early in life can help reduce the incidence of these growths. It is estimated that 80% of lifetime absorption to UV light occurs before the age of 18. Unfortunately, a recent survey found that a high percentage of parents are unaware of the potential for damage and rarely protect their children's eyes.
Lighter colored eyes, just as lighter skin, have less pigment and are therefore more susceptible to damage from the sun. Infants are especially at risk for sun damage because of the clarity of their corneas and lenses. One of the problems with young children wearing sunglasses is that they tend to pull them off! Sunglasses made from tough, shatter-resistant, polycarbonate, are available in sizes for infants and toddlers. Some sunglasses for children even come with elastic bands built right into the frames. A variety of sun-protection hats, T-shirts and other clothing is also available for children.
Everyone, including children, should protect their eyes from the sun's harmful rays. Sunglasses with UV protection can help boost the eyes' ability to filter out the damaging rays. However, sunglasses that do not block UV rays should be avoided. Sunglasses shade the eyes from the bright sun and cause the pupils to dilate somewhat. If the UV rays are not blocked by the lenses, more UV enters the eyes that if no lenses are worn.
Guidelines for selecting sunglasses for your child:
Sources: 1. American Optometric Association 2. Prevent Blindness America
VISION & HEALTH NEWSLETTER COURTESY OF:
Christine Tyler, O.D., Cindy Pouw, O.D.