Children’s eyes more susceptible to long-term damage from UV rays

May 12, 2010

From press release

CHICAGO—As children begin to head out to enjoy the warmer weather, many parents remember to apply sunscreen to protect their children’s skin from damaging ultraviolet (UV) rays. However, many parents may not be aware of the damage that UV rays can have on the eyes. According to the World Health Organization, up to 80 percent of a person’s lifetime exposure to UV is received before the age of 18.

In fact, children are more susceptible to UV damage than adults because they tend to spend more time outside than adults. And, according to the American Optometric Association, children are at a greater risk of UV damage because the lenses of their eyes are more transparent, which allows more short wavelength light to reach the retina. UV damage to the eyes is cumulative, meaning it builds over time. UV exposure has been linked to cataracts, macular degeneration and other eye problems.

Prevent Blindness America, the nation’s oldest volunteer eye health and safety organization, has declared May as UV Awareness Month to help educate the public on how to protect their eyes for a lifetime of healthy vision. Sunglasses should block out 99-100 percent of both UV-A and UV-B radiation. Sunglasses without UV protection may shade the eyes but actually cause the pupils to dilate, allowing in even more harmful rays. When going outside, both adults and children should always wear both a wide-brimmed hat or cap and the proper UV-rated sunglasses.

Prevent Blindness America is asking parents to remember to protect their children’s eyes by doing the following:

→ Only purchase sunglasses that offer 99 to 100 percent UV protection.

→ Make sure the sunglasses fit the child’s face and shield the eyes from all angles.

→ Choose lenses that are impact resistant and made of polycarbonate, never glass, unless prescribed by a doctor.

→ Make sure lenses are not scratched or damaged.

→ Purchase wraparound sunglasses to protect eyes as well as the delicate skin around the eyes.

“We need to remember to protect our eyes from UV every day of the year,” said Hugh R. Parry, president and CEO of Prevent Blindness America. “UV rays reflecting off the water, sand, pavement and even snow are extremely dangerous. We can encourage our children to wear the proper eye protection by leading by example.”

As part of the new children’s eye health and education program “Star Pupils” by Prevent Blindness America, Real Kids Shades, a company dedicated to providing quality eyewear for infants, toddlers and older children, is now offering parents the opportunity to purchase specially-designed Star Pupils sunglasses that offer 100 percent UV-A and UV-B protection. The infant sunglasses may be purchased for $14.99, and all proceeds from the purchase will help fund the Star Pupils program.

For more information about how to protect children’s eyes from UV rays or to purchase the Star Pupils infant sunglasses, visit starpupils.org or call (800) 331-2020.

Prevent Blindness America

Founded in 1908, Prevent Blindness America is the nation’s leading volunteer eye health and safety organization dedicated to fighting blindness and saving sight. Focused on promoting a continuum of vision care, Prevent Blindness America touches the lives of millions of people each year through public and professional education, advocacy, certified vision screenings, community and patient service programs and research. These services are made possible through the generous support of the American public. Together with a network of affiliates, divisions and chapters, Prevent Blindness America is committed to eliminating preventable blindness in America. For more information, or to make a contribution to the sight-saving fund, call (800) 331-2020 or visit the Web site preventblindness.org.

From the May 12-18, 2010 issue

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