To continue promoting National Eyecare Month in January, we need to tell you that it is not only important for adults to have regular eye examinations and do everything possible to prevent eye disease and blindness, but also very important to be aware of the damages that can occur to young eyes.  The World Health Organization has stated that 80% of a person’s lifetime exposure to UV rays is received before the age of 18.  Children are at risk of UV damage because the lens of their eyes are more transparent, which allows more short wave lengths to reach the retina, according to the American Optometric Association.  UV damage is cumulative, building up over time.  The damage of UV exposure has been linked to cataracts, macular degeneration, and other eye problems. 

I think most young persons wear sunglasses because it makes them look “cool”, and it does!  They may not realize that they are protecting their eyes while looking good!  In all honesty, when my children were young, I was not aware of the possibility of damage to their eyes, which can be caused by, of course, the sun, and reflections off water, sand, pavement, and even snow.  Children should be encouraged to wear UV-blocking eyewear for all daytime outdoor adventures, specifically between the hours between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m, when UV rays are the most intense.  We all should wear eye protection even during overcast days.   Here are some suggestions from Prevent Blindness America for parents to remember to protect their eyes by doing the following: 

  • Purchase wraparound sunglasses to protect eyes as well as the delicate skin around the eyes.
  • Choose lenses that are not glass, but are made of polycarbonate and are impact resistant, unless otherwise prescribed by a doctor.
  • Make sure the lenses are not scratched or damaged.
  • Only purchase sunglasses that offer 99% to 100% UV protection.
  • Make sure the sunglasses fit the child’s face and shield the eyes from all angles. 

Parents can set a good example by wearing protective sunglasses and will find that safety glasses fit the bill.  They are not that expensive, therefore, they can be easily replaced.    Many persons are required to wear safety glasses at work, and safety glasses are as stylish as the kind sold in department stores.  There are types of safety sunglasses made especially to fit women and children.  One can also find specialty stores that offer sunglasses to fit infants and toddlers. 

We all want to do the right thing by our children, and protecting their eyes is such an important part of ensuring they will grow up to enjoy healthy vision.  When they get involved in sports, there are all types of eye protection available to keep them from experiencing eye injuries.  We know that you want to keep an eye out for them through every step of their young lives.