Protecting Young Eyes from the Sun
Kids are outside more than ever during the summer. Parents, cautious about the effects of the sun, pour on the sunscreen and encourage them to wear a cap or visor. But, vulnerable parts of the body are still exposed: the eyes.
Sunglasses for kids are often seen as a novelty item, something bought at a five-and-dime store just for fun. But, protecting your little ones’ eyes from UV rays is important to remember.
“Excessive exposure to sunlight anytime, including the childhood years, is harmful to the eyes,” said Dr. Chad East, optometrist with The Eye Clinic. “The risk for retinal damage from the sun’s rays is greatest in children younger than 10 years old, even though the consequences aren’t usually apparent until much later.”
Long-term exposure to ultraviolet (UV) rays has been linked to a host of eye diseases, including cataracts, age-related macular degeneration, intraocular malignant melanoma (eye cancer) and photokeratitis (corneal burn).
Few kids will understand the importance of wearing sunglasses to protect their vision, but Dr. East said parents should encourage sun safety by wearing their own sunglasses and providing quality shades for their children.
Ball games, playing by the pool, going to the beach, and just being outside for a length of time can be rough on the eyes if they aren’t protected. Many experts believe eyes get 80 percent of their total lifetime exposure to the sun’s UV rays by age 18. And, Dr. East added that excessive lifetime exposure to UV radiation has been linked to the development of cataracts and other eye problems. A person’s lifestyle appears to be the most important factor in determining whose eyes will be most affected by UV damage.
“Frames come in a wide array of colors, shapes, styles, and are available in sleek, sporty, quirky and traditional options,” said Sandra , optician with Optics Unlimited at The Eye Clinic. “We have something to fit every personality.”
Sandra Richard, optician with The Eye Clinic in Moss Bluff, advises parents to not get too swayed by the style of the sunglasses, and concentrate on the quality. “After all, the purpose is to protect the eyes. If they look great but don’t offer protection, they aren’t doing their job,” she said.
Choosing protective lenses can be confusing, as there are many options available. Richard said that polycarbonate lenses are a good choice for children and athletes as they shield the eyes from UV radiation as well as protect the eyes against impact injuries that may occur during play and sports.
She said wrap-around or close-fitting frames offer great protection against the sun. “Glasses that do not fit close to the face tend to allow light to penetrate the eyes by seeping in around the lenses. Polarized lenses tend to reduce reflection and glare, particularly useful while boating or near the water. “
Sunglass cords, or retainers, are often a good idea for kids. “These can be attached to the temples of the sunglasses so that when removed, or knocked off, the sunglasses can hang from the neck and not get misplaced,” Richard explained.
Selecting a pair of sunglasses with your child is a good opportunity to emphasize the importance of health and safety. “And by choosing frames they like,” said Dr. East, “they’ll be more likely to wear them.”
For more suggestions on choosing sunglasses for kids, call The Eye Clinic nearest you in Lake Charles, Sulphur, DeRidder, Moss Bluff or Jennings.