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The Importance of Sunglasses for Children

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Young boy laying down wearing sunglasses and a hat.

Sunglasses are extremely important for children as their eyes are still in a developmental stage and need to be protected from UV radiation. If your child does not already wear sunglasses, it will be beneficial for them to receive an eye exam so they can be properly fit for UV protected sunglasses.

Start With an Eye Exam

If your child has not received their first eye exam, it is important to get them in for one before purchasing sunglasses. They may need to get prescription sunglasses or need to be fitted for contact lenses so they can comfortably use non-prescription sunglasses. Children’s eyes change rapidly, so it is important to stay on top of their regularly scheduled eye examinations to monitor changes in their eyesight.

What is UV Radiation?

Ultraviolet (UV) light rays are the shortest wavelengths of light on the light spectrum and are not visible to the naked eye. They are the reason that our skin tans and burns. There is an inverse relationship between the wavelength of light rays and the amount of energy they contain, meaning UV rays have the most energy out of any wavelength of light. There are three types of UV radiation:

Why is UV Radiation Harmful?

Overexposure to UVB rays can cause photokeratitis, which is essentially a sunburn for your eyes. Photokeratitis can cause temporary, but painful symptoms such as red eyes, light sensitivity, a feeling of something in the eye, and excessive tearing. It generally does not cause permanent long-term damage to your eyes, though.

An accumulation of UV exposure over many years is what can cause severe ocular diseases such as cataracts or macular degeneration, and threaten a partial or total loss of vision.

The radiation from UVA and UVB rays are absorbed by the eye: UVB rays are generally absorbed by the cornea and lens, causing damage to these tissues, while UVA rays penetrate deeper into the eye, causing retinal damage.

Boy and girl laying on down grass wearing their sunglasses

Children are Extra Sensitive to UV Radiation

A child’s eyes are in a constant state of development, meaning the lens that protects their eye from UV radiation has not matured enough to properly filter light like an adult’s. This leaves children at a greater risk of harm from UV radiation. Getting your child sunglasses as early as possible also means that you can mitigate the cumulative effects that UV radiation could have on their eyes over their entire life.

UV Protected Lenses

Having protection from UVA and UVB rays will ensure that your eyes can remain healthy when spending time outdoors. UV protection can be considered the most important factor in protecting your eyesight when choosing sunglasses. The dye that is used on lenses to protect your eyes from UV rays can be applied to a variety of different lenses. For the utmost protection for your eyes, pairing polarized sunglasses with UV-protected coating will offer you the best results.

Children Need UV Protected Glasses

The effects of UV light rays on eyesight are accumulated over your life. If children are exposed to harmful UV rays early on and often enough, it can have a detrimental effect on their eyesight when developing. It is important to make sure that your child is wearing UV-protected glasses outside as soon as possible.

Photochromic Lenses

These lenses can be beneficial to children who need an eyeglass prescription to treat refractive issues with their eyes. They work by changing to a darker tint when exposed to greater sources of light and stay clear when in low-light conditions. These lenses can be coated with a UV protected substance, just like UV protected sunglasses. Photochromic glasses offer convenience through the fact that your child will only need to keep track of one pair of glasses rather than two.

Are Sunglasses Only Necessary When It’s Sunny?

No, they are necessary any time you are outside. Even if you cannot see the sun, UV rays can still penetrate through clouds and can be reflected off of a variety of surfaces outside. Photochromic lenses can be convenient when taking this into account because even if it is not sunny, your child will be able to see through clear lenses and have their eyes protected from UV radiation. 

Written by Dr. Randall W. Yumori

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