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Why Your Kids Need Sunglasses | Long Island Eye Doctor

Why Your Kids Need Sunglasses
Briana Rodriguez

The Sun

The Sun holds the most damaging ultraviolet radiation. The skin and the eye have a similar potential for damage from UV radiation. The only difference is the eye is not capable of developing a tolerance to UV like the skin can. Children are targeted the most to UV affiliated eye diseases that develop as they get older.

Earth’s Atmosphere   

    The atmosphere is put together by different layers. One of the layers, the stratosphere, which is protected by the ozone layer. The ozone layer is important because it absorbs the most harmful UV rays from the sun and blocks against UVA and UVB rays. The UVB rays cause skin cancer and cataract development.

Both A & B rays create long and short term eye health risks. One risk is Photokeratitis, also known as snow/light blindness. This health issue is caused by overexposure of UV rays to the cornea. The aftermath results in red, painful, temporary blindness, sensitivity to light and excessive watering of the eyes. This is also known as corneal sunburn.

The UV levels are at their highest peak during the day between 10am to 2pm, and in a cloudless sky. Even if clouds are present, the clouds cause an increase in UV levels. Whether cloudy or a clear sunny day, UV rays are invisible but present at all times and this is why we need UV protection eyewear at all times.

Why is it important for kids to wear sunglasses at such a young age?

    Did you know that only 50% of UV rays are blocked from caps and hats? Out of children who wear prescription eyeglasses, only 11% wear some type of prescription sun wear. Before a child reaches the age of 18, they are already exposed to 80% of UV rays. So why are kids’ eyes more at risk to long term UV damage? Kids under the age of ten have a more transparent crystalline lens, the structure located behind the iris where light is focused onto the retina. The crystalline lens in a child transmits over 75% of UV rays to the retina. Meanwhile in an adult at the age of 30, the crystalline lens only transmits 10%.

Children have a larger pupil diameter compared to adults which causes more UV transmission in kids. This is another reason why children are more at risk to long term UV damage in contrast to adults. Many parents of younger patients don’t want to contribute money on glasses for their child to break or lose them. Parents do not understand the long term damages they are really causing to their children’s eyes.

Every parent wants their child to be healthy and active. Kids are exposed to sports and outdoor activities at a young age. The extra amount of the time kids spend outside at a young age without sun protected eyewear, raises the risk of early onset macular degeneration and cortical cataracts. A study demonstrated participants who are in the sun for five or more hours a day at a young age had macular degeneration that occurred 10 years earlier.

Different Sunwear Options for your Child

  1. Transitions: This is an add on option for a pair of eyeglasses. The Transitions naturally adapt to the changes in light. As you go into sunlight, transition lenses act as a pair of sunglasses for outdoors and protect against blue light rays from the sun. When indoors, transition lenses are clear and block 20% of the blue light rays. When the transitions are activated outdoors, they block up to 80% of the hurtful blue light rays from the sun.  These lenses block 100% of UV rays.

Transition lenses could be a great option for your child that always wears their eyeglasses. Having one pair that your child keeps on at all times will lower the possibility of the glasses being broken or lost.

  1. Sport Goggles: This is a tremendous option for kids who are actively involved in sports from basketball to baseball, football or soccer. Sports goggles defend your child’s eyes from any damage or foul play when playing sports. Sports goggles are even designed to fit into helmets. Bonus, you can put their prescription lenses in the goggles as well!
  2. Polarized Sunglasses:  Polarized lenses have a filter built in that blocks out the glare from the sun and causes light to reflect in only one direction. Glare is the number one cause of eyestrain and headaches. These lenses will assist in reducing glare and improving clarity, enhancing images to become sharper and crystal clear.

It is important for every patient to wear sunglass protection, especially kids. It is critical for kids to start wearing sunglasses to protect their eyes from the harmful ultraviolet radiation rays by the sun to reduce the risk of eye related diseases in the future.

Briana Rodriguez, Optometric Technician and Future Optometry Student for the Class of 2022

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