Small Eyes Need The Protection Of Sunglasses Too

Cumulative exposure to the sun's harmful rays may increase the risk of vision problems. And since kids generally spend more time outdoors, their exposure to ultraviolet radiation adds up to more than that of many adults. That's why it's important to have your child wear sunglasses that block ultraviolet rays and visible blue-violet light that can be damaging to his or her eyes.

Why Your Child Should Wear Sunglasses

Sunglasses do more than reduce the glare from the sun. Children, including infants, should wear sunglasses for protection against UV radiation whenever they are outdoors – even on overcast days. While you can't see UV rays, the rays can get through cloud cover. Unfortunately, exposure to UV radiation can have both short- and long-term effects on the eyes.

Sunglasses also filter out blue wavelengths of light, which can cause oxidative damage to the eyes. Continued exposure to blue-violet light over time increases the risk for developing macular degeneration (loss of central vision) later in life.

UVA and UVB Rays

Both UVA and UVB rays can cause retinal damage in children, as the lens inside a child's eye can't block UV rays as well as an adult lens can. The lens of a child's eye is also more sensitive, letting in more harmful ultraviolet radiation. Although UVA rays are lower in energy than UVB rays, they can penetrate the eyes more deeply and have been linked with the development of age-related eye problems such as cataracts and macular degeneration.

Blue Light

High-energy blue light can damage the photosensitive cells of the retina, but the cornea and lens of a child's eyes, like those of an adult, can't absorb blue light. But you can reduce your child's exposure to short wavelength blue and violet light that comes from direct sunlight by having him or her wear sunglasses with lenses that are amber in color.

Noncancerous Growths

Exposure to ultraviolet radiation can lead to pingueculae and pterygia – growths on the conjunctiva and cornea of the eye. Although noncancerous, sometimes these growths grow big enough to interfere with vision. A large pterygium can even lead to astigmatism by changing the shape of the cornea.

While these growths are more common in adults, children who spend a lot of time playing outdoors in the sun can develop the growths if they don't wear sunglasses.

Choosing Sunglasses for Kids

While you don't have to buy expensive sunglasses for your child, you need to buy sunglasses with features that will provide adequate protection for your child's eyes. Select sunglasses for your child with:

  1. Lenses that block 99 to 100 percent of UVA and UVB rays and 75 to 90 percent of visible light.

  2. Polycarbonate lenses that are more impact-resistant than standard plastic lenses, especially for play.

  3. Frames made of a flexible material that won't break on impact to protect your child's eyes from injury.

  4. A large, close-fitting frame design for optimum protection from the sun's rays.

For more information, contact an optical store like Gerald A York Opticians