Kids and Sunglasses: Why Their Eyes Need Protection, Too
Sunglasses are a common accessory and necessity for most of Dr. Mark Roy's patients at Oakland Optometry in Rochester Hills. But when we ask many of our adult patients if their kids wear sunglasses as well, the answer is more often than not, “no.” If it’s important for adults to wear sunglasses, it’s probably more important that your kids wear sunglasses to protect their eyes. In fact, because children spend significantly more time outdoors than most adults, Dr. Roy says that up to half a person's lifetime exposure to UV rays can occur by age 18.
Ultraviolet (UV) Rays Damage More than Skin
We all know the dangers of too much UV exposure for our skin. Sunburns are painful and too much sun increases the risk of skin cancer. As a parent, you are probably really diligent about making sure your child is well covered in sunscreen when they’re outside. But they also need protection for their eyes. UV rays can cause a multitude of short and long term damages to the eye, including:
- Photokeratitis. Also known as sunburn of the eye or “snow blindness.” Photokeratitis is a pretty scary and painful short term injury to the eye, similar to a sunburn on the skin. Extreme cases of photokeratitis can cause a loss of vision for as long as 48 hours.
- Cataracts. Cataracts are a progressive clouding of the eye’s lens. This is common in older adults, but can be slowed or avoided by wearing sunglasses, starting as a child.
- Pterygium. This bothersome growth on the eye is also called “surfer’s eye.” However, you don't have to be a surfer or ever see the ocean to get a pterygium. Being in bright sunlight for hours, especially on water, increases your risks. The itchy growths require surgery to remove and can come back.
- Age-related macular degeneration. The macula, an internal part of the eye, can be damaged by UV rays. Over time this damage can cause blurred vision and dulling of colors.
- Cancer. Just like your skin, your eyes can get cancer too. UV exposure is thought to be a primary cause of many types of cancer of the eye.
While many of the damages caused by UV rays take many years to develop, one thing is certain; damages can be avoided and reduced by having your child wear sunglasses.
Who’s at Risk?
Every child that doesn’t wear sunglasses is at an increased risk for UV caused eye damages. A child's retina is more susceptible to UV rays because the lens inside a child's eye is clearer than an adult lens, enabling more UV to penetrate deep into the eye.
However, there are a few groups of children that are at greater risk. First, children that participate in year round outdoor sports have a higher risk of UV damages to the eyes. Special frame materials and styles designed for outdoor activities are available for kids' sports eyewear and sunglasses at Oakland Optometry. If your child is spending many hours a day outside, make sure they are wearing protective sunglasses with specially made lenses with a shatter-resistant material.
Making Sunglasses a Habit
It can be really challenging to get children to wear sunglasses. They fall off, or your kids don’t like them, or your kids constantly seem to loose them. Here are a few suggestions to make it easier to develop a sunglasses habit.
- Be the example. When you are outside with your children, wear your sunglasses.
- Make it a habit. Just like putting on a seatbelt or a bike helmet. Make sure your child never goes outside without sunglasses. If you make helmets and seatbelts your normal routine, make sunglasses a normal routine too.
- Give them a choice. Don’t just pick out sunglasses for your child. First, make sure the lenses in the sunglasses block 100% of the sun's UV rays, then let them decide which sunglasses they like the best. If they like them, it will be easier to get your child to wear them.
- Be the keeper of the glasses. To avoid lost or broken sunglasses, mom or dad should hold on to your child’s sunglasses when they aren’t being worn. If they are in good shape and you know where they are, it’s easier to put them on your kids.
For More Information on Kids Sunglasses, Contact Rochester Hills Eye Doctor, Dr. Mark Roy
Sunglasses are an important part of healthy eyes for every family member especially your kids. Oakland Optometry has a full line of sunglasses for children to adults. Most importantly, they will block 100% of the sun's UV rays. Dr. Mark Roy and his optical team at Oakland Optometry specialize in fitting children's sunglasses and eyewear. To schedule an appointment, call Rochester Hills Eye Doctor, Dr. Mark Roy at 248.373.6500 and stop by Oakland Optometry to see their collection of sunglasses.