With the summer months quickly approaching, most of us will be spending more time outdoors enjoying the warmer sunny weather. We need to remember good sunglass habits. Not only is it important for adults to wear quality sunglasses, it is essential children wear sunglasses, too. Protection from dangerous ultraviolet sunlight and glare should begin early in life.
Ultraviolet exposure can lead to both short and long-term negative effects on eye health. A sunburn of the eye, or photokeratitis, can occur after a long day at the beach. Eyes may be red, light-sensitive, swollen, or uncomfortable. Cumulative exposure over years can lead to vision loss due to cataracts, pterygium, and macular degeneration. Cataracts are clouding of the crystalline lens. A benign growth of the conjuctiva onto the cornea, called a pterygium, can appear. Risk of macular degeneration increases with ultraviolet exposure, and this may lead to damage of the retina in the back of the eye and reduction in central vision. Cancer of the eye or eyelid area may form over time. Wearing sunglasses can also slow the progression of wrinkles, or crow's feet, around the eyes.
So, who is at risk? People of all ages need sun protection all of the time; however, children's eyes have larger pupils and clearer lenses than adults which allow greater penetration of harmful ultraviolet light to reach ocular structures. Also, child's skin is delicate, making it more susceptible to the damaging rays.
When looking for a new pair of sunglasses, make sure the description states that 99-100% of damaging UVA and UVB light is blocked. Polarized lenses will offer the most protection from glare and reflections off water or other surfaces. To ensure you are getting quality lenses and frames, it is recommended the sunglasses meet ANSI (American National Standards Institute) standards. Purchase sunglasses that look and feel good, and you will more likely wear them. Allowing children to choose their own quality sunglasses will encourage good sun protective habits now and in the future. Own multiple pairs of sunglasses to store in your car, golf bag, sport duffle bag, or purse and you'll have a pair there and ready when you need them!
Pamela Lynch, O.D.