By Jay Russell, Manager - Eye Ancillary Services

Sunglasses can look cute on your child, but they have important protective uses, too. Did you know a quality pair of sunglasses can provide simultaneous protection from exposure to UV rays and injuries?

The key is to try and make sure your child wears their sunglasses consistently any time they are outdoors. It has been estimated that up to 80 percent of the UV damage done to our eyes in our lifetime occurs by age 18. Because the lens is so much clearer than that of an adult’s, a child’s eye can transmit 70 percent more UV rays. The damage done by UV rays accumulates over the years, leading to an increased risk of permanent eye damage or disease.

For the record, your mother was right. Lighter colored eyes are more sensitive to sunlight and they are also more susceptible to UV damage to the retina. Your retina is in the back of your eye and is the part responsible for forming the images we see.

Sunglasses can also protect your child’s eyes from injury-related blindness. Each year sports-related eye injuries result in over 100,000 injuries to children. Of these injuries, over 13,000 result in some form of permanent vision loss. Forty-three percent of the injuries were in children under the age of 15 years old. It has been estimated by the American Academy of Ophthalmology that wearing proper sports glasses could reduce these injuries by 90 percent.

A pair of good quality sunglasses with polycarbonate lenses can help protect your child from both of these dangers. Polycarbonate is an extremely impact-resistant lens and is a natural UV filter, blocking 100 percent of the damaging UV rays. Polycarbonate is also a very lightweight lens material, which increases the comfort of the sunglasses to encourage children to keep them on. Combined with a sturdy frame, they can greatly reduce the risks to your child’s eyes and help ensure their long-term eye health.

However, not enough children consistently wear sunglasses. A study in ophthalmic news publication Vision Monday showed that while as many as 1 in 3 children above the age of 14 wear sunglasses regularly, fewer than 1 in 8 below the age of 10 do. And for children with no vision correction, less than 2 percent regularly wear sunglasses.

A good way to convince your child to wear sunglasses is to allow them to have a part in choosing their frames. Frames are available in many styles, shapes, and colors. Even the lens colors can be varied to suit individual tastes. For the more athletic minded, you can even place sunglass lenses in their sport goggle frames.

You should, however, beware of cheap sunglasses. They can potentially be as harmful as not wearing anything. For example, in 2014, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission required the recall of several brands of cheap children’s sunglasses that had surface paint containing unacceptable levels of lead.

CEENTA carries all the high-quality options mentioned above in our 12 optical shops, which are staffed by trained opticians who can help you make your choice. And don’t forget, 80 percent of vision problems are avoidable or curable world-wide with proper eye care checkups, so make an appointment today.

To make an appointment for an eye exam, call 704-295-3000.

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