Kids’ sight put at risk as parents ignore dangers of the sun’s harmful rays

As summer looks to arrive, the sight charity, Eyecare Trust, is issuing a stark warning to parents to protect their children's eyes from the sun or put them at risk of permanent damage to their sight.

Our eyes are ten times more sensitive to UV light than our skin and children's eyes are at the greatest risk of UV damage. Big pupils and clearer lenses mean up to 70 per cent more UV light reaches the retina than in an adult's eye.

Latest figures from World Health Organisation estimate that this lack of natural eye protection combined with the disproportionate amount of time children spend playing outdoors could mean that as much as 80 per cent of a lifetimes' UV is absorbed into the eye by the time a child reaches the age of 18.

Cumulative exposure to UV is one of the main risk factors of age related macular degeneration – the leading cause of sight loss in the UK and cataracts, a clouding of the eyes lens, which affects one in three people aged over 65 years.

Other potential eye health problems related to UV exposure include Pterygium – a growth on the white of the eye, which encroaches onto the cornea and can obscure your vision. Repeated exposure to sunlight can also increase your risk of cancer of the eyelid and the skin surrounding the eye.

Rosie Gavzey, Director of the Eyecare Trust explains: "Our message to parents is simple 'Protect it Now or Lose it Later'. UV damage to the eyes is cumulative and totally irreversible. If we don't take steps to protect our children's eyes, repeated exposure can and will result in them suffering sight threatening conditions such as cataracts and macular degeneration later in life."

Rosie continues: "Ideally all children - and adults - should wear good quality sunglasses and a peaked hat when spending any time outdoors. It's especially important for parents to safeguard their children's eyes when they are playing on the beach or by water where there is a lot of reflected light."

Brimmed hats and sunshades attached to prams and pushchairs will generally provide adequate protection for babies and very young children.

When buying children's sunglasses you should always ensure that they carry the European Standard CE mark or the British Standard BSEN 1836:1997 to ensure that the sunglasses offer a safe level of UV protection.

'Toy' sunglasses or those not providing at least 99 per cent protection from UVA & UVB can actually cause more damage because the tinted lenses dilate the pupil allowing more UV light to enter the eye.

The Eyecare Trust's Top Tips For Kids' Eye Protection

1. Wear sunglasses that carry the European or British Standard marks

2. For maximum protection wear a cap or brimmed hat in addition to your sunglasses.

3. Stay out of the midday sun.

4. Choose plastic or toughened glass lenses for added durability.

5. Ensure the sunglasses fit well and feel comfortable – your optician can advise on styles and sizes to ensure maximum protection and fit. Foam frames can be a good option very young children.

6. Check out the range of funky colours and sunglass designs available for children - available to prescription and non prescription - at your local Mackey Opticians.

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