Children often spend more time outside than adults, but have you noticed that most kids on the playground or ballfield don't wear sunglasses?
Most children receive more annual sun exposure than adults. This increased exposure to sunlight increases the risk of eye damage from ultraviolet (UV) light.
Parents know it can be difficult to get kids to wear shades, but ophthalmologists emphasize the importance of eye protection in developing children. In adults, the lenses of the eyes have matured, but children's eye lenses cannot filter out UV rays as efficiently. Increased exposure to sunlight can cause short-term problems such as:
- Photokeratitis, or sunburn of the eye
- Dry, irritated or bloodshot eyes
Long-term sun exposure may have lasting effects and make children more prone to eye growths known as pterygia or eye diseases like cataracts and age-related macular degeneration.
Minimizing UV Exposure in Children
According to the World Health Organization, 80 percent of children's UV exposure occurs before turning 18. As a result, parents can take an active role in their children's eye health to prevent degenerative eye diseases.
There are many ways parents can help care for their children's eyes. 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. You can let your child help select the style, but make sure the sunglasses are durable as well.
- Choose the right sunglasses for various 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 vehicle 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
Help your children's vision stay healthy by making annual comprehensive eye exams for the whole family. A complete eye exam tests for refractive errors, focusing problems and common eye diseases like cataracts, glaucoma and macular degeneration. Eye diseases often don't have symptoms in the early stages, but your eye doctor can detect a developing condition during an eye exam.
Find an Ophthalmologist Near You
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