Many kids spend long hours during the summer playing out in the sun, often without sun glasses. This puts them at increased risk for sun exposure that can cause permanent damage to their eyes when they are older.
The light of the sun is composed of a variety of types of radiation, including ultraviolet radiation which is known as UV rays. There are actually three kinds of UV radiation. UV-C radiation is trapped by the ozone layer in the atmosphere and does not present a risk to people on earth. UV-A and UV-B radiation are both harmful components of light that are commonly recognized as causing damage to the skin.
These same rays that can cause a sun burn are also harmful to the eyes, and are potentially even more harmful to the eyes of children than they are to the eyes of adults. This is because the lens of a child’s eye is more transparent than the lens found in older eyes. This extra transparency allows more harmful UV radiation to enter the eyes where it can cause permanent damage. UV exposure is believed to contribute to many serious eye conditions that can develop later in life, including cataracts (clouding of the lens of the eye), macular degeneration (damage to the light receiving cells in the eye that causes “holes” in vision), and permanent damage to the retina that can result in blindness.
To protect eyes from UV exposure, sun glasses need to block out 99 to100 percent of both UV-A and UV-B radiation. They should also screen out 75 to 90 percent of visible light. In addition, sun glasses need to protect against light coming from multiple directions. UV rays can come from sunlight overhead and can also come from reflections off sand, water, pavement, or even snow. Sun glasses that warp around the sides of the head can add extra protection, as can wearing a sun hat or visor. These tools can also help protect part of the face from exposure to the sun that can cause a sun burn.
It’s easy to think that sun glasses are only important in the summer. But in reality, UV radiation is present every day, whether it is sunny or cloudy and all times of year including winter. The affects of UV rays on the eyes are cumulative, which means they continue to add up for as long as you are alive. So the earlier children start wearing sun glasses, the more their vision will be protected.