Sun damage to young eyes

By HSC Staff Writer • Published: June 15th, 2006
Category: Health in a Heartbeat

When it comes to dermal dangers, the sun’s rays rank high. It’s no secret that slathering on sunscreen and seeking out shade protect the skin, steps that should begin in childhood. But did you also know that most sun damage to the eyes also takes place in these early years… and isn’t reversible?

Solar radiation can harm the lens and retina, leading to cataracts, macular degeneration and other eye diseases later in life.

Children with lighter eye colors are at greatest risk. That’s because the iris serves as a sun sponge, soaking up harmful rays before light passes through the pupil to the retina. The darker the iris, the greater the protective effect.

Experts say infants and children under ten also risk retinal injury because the eye lens is still forming. As children grow older, the lens absorbs more ultraviolet rays, protecting the retina but increasing the risk of cataracts.

Although many adults don sporty specs for comfort and fashion, most children don’t follow suit.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends using sunglasses that block ninety-nine to one-hundred percent of ultraviolet rays. Dark lenses only limit the amount of visible light reaching the eye. Without U-V protection, they allow U-V rays to pass through the dilated pupil. A wide-rimmed hat also reduces U-V exposure.

A little foresight keeps kids healthy and happy when it comes to outdoor play. Stick to the sunscreen, but don’t forget the shades, especially if children will be out in the sun.