Protecting your eyes from the sun is essential, no matter your age. Parents ask us all the time whether their children need sunglasses — and the short answer is yes, they do. Vision problems can occur during any stage of a person’s life, so your kids should start preventing them early.
Let’s take a look at some of the ways sunglasses protect children from common eye problems. We’ll also explain how young people can benefit from eye exams. With luck, the knowledge below will help everyone in your family see clearly for many years to come.
How Are Children’s Eyes Different From Those of Adults?
Children need sunglasses because the lenses in their eyes allow more UV radiation to pass through than those of adults. Since UV radiation that enters the eye causes cell damage, this puts children at a higher risk for many complications. We’ll describe the most common ones in the next section.
There’s also another reason children may need extra eye protection, and it’s a simple one: kids tend to spend longer outside. This additional exposure, combined with their increased susceptibility to UV light, makes eye protection for young people a must.
Common Eye Problems Caused by Sunlight
Sunglasses with UV 400 protection block 100% of UV radiation from the sun’s rays and can substantially decrease the likelihood of these conditions appearing in people who wear them regularly from an early age. The following is a list of eye problems UV rays can cause.
Cataracts occur when the lens of the eye becomes clouded. People who develop cataracts in their eyes describe the effect as similar to looking through a window covered in frost. Removing cataracts typically requires surgery, so prevention is critical. Research indicates that substantial exposure to UV rays can increase the likelihood of cataracts developing later in life.
This type of benign tumour is also referred to as “surfer’s eye.” Pterygium may be caused when UV radiation causes cells in the eye to divide abnormally, resulting in a pinkish growth near the cornea. Pterygium often affects both eyes and can grow large enough to cover the entire pupil. If this occurs, vision can be significantly impaired.
Photokeratitis & Photoconjunctivitis
Think of these conditions like sunburns on the eye — ouch! In each case, UV rays from sunlight cause inflammation of tissues within the eye. Photokeratitis occurs when the cornea itself becomes inflamed, whereas photoconjunctivitis is an inflammation of the membrane that lines the eye socket and eyelids. This membrane is also known as the conjunctiva.
Most of the other conditions on this list are unlikely to occur during childhood — although exposing a child’s eyes to direct sunlight can increase their likelihood later in life. However, photokeratitis and photoconjunctivitis are common occurrences in children and may come with various unpleasant symptoms, including pain and blurred vision.
Skin Cancer Near the Eyes
Sunscreen is essential for protecting the skin during outdoor activities, but most people don’t apply it near the eyes because it can sting. Unfortunately, that also means that UV rays can affect the skin near the eyes, increasing skin cancer risk in those areas. As with most of the problems listed above, skin cancer usually develops after years of UV exposure — so the sooner you start protecting the skin around your child’s eyes, the less likely it is to affect them.
Supporting Healthy Vision with Regular Eye Exams
Not all sunglasses are created equal, and not all children have the same ocular needs. The best way to find sunglasses that suit your child’s needs and preferences is to schedule an eye exam with a qualified professional. They can determine whether your child needs prescription lenses, help them find a good fit, and show you numerous options within your budget.
Sunglasses: More Than a Fashion Statement
It’s best to consider sunglasses a necessity instead of an accessory — especially when it comes to your kids. Teach them to wear sunglasses whenever they go outside so that they can start protecting their eyes early and reduce the risk of many preventable health problems. Better yet, lead by example and make sure you take sunglasses of your own on future family trips.
If you need help choosing sunglasses for you or your children, visit us at Shady Grove Eye and Vision Care in Rockville. Call us at (301) 859-4060 or use our contact form to book an appointment.