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Protect Your Child's Eyes

Here Comes Summer!

While 85 percent of Americans recognize that ultraviolet (UV) rays can damage their eyes, only 65 percent wear sunglasses as protection, and even fewer (39 percent) make sure their children wear sunglasses. By comparison, 78 percent make sure their children wear sunscreen when outdoors.

"These gaps in vision care attitudes and behavior are of great concern, particularly when it comes to children," says Christine W. Sindt, OD, FAAO, Associate Professor of Clinical Ophthalmology, University of Iowa.

Compared to their parents, children have larger pupils (allowing more light into their eyes), clearer lenses, and are outside without eye protection much more frequently and for longer periods than most adults. It is estimated that 80 percent of lifetime exposure to UV occurs by age 18 and that childrens' annual dose of UV radiation is three times that of adults.

"Short-term damage to the eyes is hard to notice, but over the long-term, the sun can cause irreversible harm to all structures of the eye and surrounding tissue that are left unprotected or under-protected," explains Dr. Sindt. "These conditions may not manifest for years at which point the damage is already done and it is too late to reverse the effects of the sun. That's why it is important to get maximum protection beginning in childhood."

When it comes to protecting the eyes of little ones, most sunglasses can help block UV rays from entering through the lenses. In addition to good lenses, parents should consider frame styles that prevent rays from reaching the sides, top, and bottom of the glasses, especially for children regularly exposed to UV rays reflected up from surfaces such as pavement, sand, and water.

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