Children’s eyes are very sensitive to light and light transmission. There are several reasons for that. First, children have larger pupils so the greater amount of light rays penetrates through them to the retina. Harmful UV rays go with them and cause the damage the retina. Similarly, retinal tissue in children is less pigmented and therefore more susceptible to UV damage.
The damage caused by this radiation is cumulative, as the lens of the child’s eye does not filter out ultraviolet rays before 10 or 12 years of age; 75% of harmful rays reach the retina before the onset of puberty. Given these facts, and the fact that the most dangerous harmful effect is developing of ocular melanoma, which increased in the last ten years, the question is asked: why children do not wear sunglasses?
What happens when you do not have sunglasses?
When people don’t wear sunglasses they react on the sun with reflex pupillary contraction, and if they have a cap or a hat they protect themselves adequately, although uncomfortable. The light is still a problem.
When you put dark sunglasses with adequate protection from the sun (UV filters), you don’t have to squeeze your eyes, the pupil is widened (depending on the degree of darkness) and you see things with less pain and discomfort. The eyes are protected. But what happens when you wear sunglasses with dark glass which don’t have UV protection?
Under dark glass pupils become widen, the light does not bother us, but damaging ultraviolet rays are coming smoothly to the eye and cause eyelid, clip, lens and retina damage. It is less dangerous not to wear glasses but wear dark glasses without adequate UV protection.
Damage caused by UV radiation
Damage caused by UV radiation is popularly called ophthalmoheliosis (ophthalmo-eye, heliosis-sun). Damage starts already at the level of the eyelid. There may be sunburn and wrinkles, but after prolonged exposure to the sun – skin cancer and melanoma.
Furthermore, there are changes in the conjunctiva and cornea – pinguecula, pterygium and keratitis. UV radiation on the lens can enhance the development of cataract. It is assumed that the cataract with a characteristic localization of blur in the lower medial part of the lens is caused by increased exposure to the sun.
Effect of UV radiation on the secondary eye membrane (choroid) may lead to the development of melanoma and inflammation, and cause damage to the retina such as solar maculopathy, macular degeneration, and finally, the melanoma with specific localization of the lower and nasal pole of the retina. This damage will not be visible to the eye on the children and child will not complain of interference, except on the bright light.
But we must not forget that the effect of UV radiation is cumulative, so it is necessary as early as possible to ensure the protection for the eye. We should avoid prolonged exposure to sunlight (especially in the summer between 10am and 6pm), but also the snow and water surfaces that additionally reflect radiation. If this is not possible, we should be protected by appropriate shades (wide-brimmed hats and caps) and wearing sunglasses with dark glasses or soft contact lenses (both with proper UV protection).
Studies show that 90% of the adult population knows that the sun can damage their skin, but only 10% are aware that it can cause damage to their eyes – and not only during sunny days.
Therefore, we must remember that:
- UV radiation causes long-term damage to the structure of the eye, especially in children (cumulative effect). If we start to protect the eyes of our children now, we will reduce the chance of potentially dangerous conditions later in their lives;
- “WHO” estimates that 80% of UV radiation occurs before 18 years;
- Majority of adults wear sunglasses, but the kids are the one who spend much more time outdoors in the game and sport, and they wear sunglasses rarely or never.
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