Parents generally take precautions to protect their children’s skin from the sun; it is equally important to make every effort to protect children’s eyes from the sun’s harmful ultraviolet (UV) rays and glare. Just as we may not see the damage to our skin for years, we also may not see the damage to our eyes for some time. But each part of the eye can be damaged by chronic or high-dose exposure to UV radiation. Even the glare of an overcast day can add to the cumulative affect. Possible effects of long-term sun exposure to the eyes include:

  • The development of skin cancer on the eyelids
  • Changes to the surface of the eye, such as non-cancerous growths on the white of the eye
  •  Over time, the lens becomes more opaque and decreases vision forming cataracts
  • Damage to the retina, which can lead to age related macula degeneration, the leading cause of legal blindness in the US in people over 65 years.

In fact studies conducted over the last 30 years have proven that many of the serious eye diseases associated with aging are at least partially a result of years of sun exposure. Protecting children’s eyes are especially important due to two significant factors:

  1. Children spend more time outdoors. The average child receives 80% of his lifetime UV exposure before the age of 20.
  2. More damaging rays are transmitted through the young child’s crystalline lens to the retina. The eyes of children 10 years and younger transmit 75% of these rays; people 25 years or older only transmit 10%.

The simplest and most efficient way to prevent or delay the onset of   progression of various eye diseases is by using sunglasses or photochromic protective lenses designed to protect all damaging sun rays from reaching the eyes, ideally starting in early childhood. For a child who already wears corrective lenses, this can be achieved with polycarbonate photochromic lenses, which change color according to UV exposure. For a child who does not wear corrective glasses, a high quality pair of sunglasses is recommended.

 

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