As we finally get a glimpse of summer, the sight charity, Eyecare Trust, today (29th June 2008) issued 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.
When the UV Index reaches three or more* – even on cloudy days – wearing sunglasses or UV protective lenses is vital, especially for children.
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. In fact, 80 per cent of a lifetime’s UV is absorbed into the eye by the time a child reaches the age of 18**.
Short-term exposure to UV can lead to photophobia – visual discomfort and sensitivity to bright light or photokeratitis, a sunburn-like condition that can last 48 hours or so.
However, cumulative exposure to UV can lead to permanent sight loss – it 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.
Iain Anderson, Chairman of the Eyecare Trust warns: “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 protect our children’s eyes, repeated UV exposure can, and will, result in them suffering sight threatening conditions such as cataracts and macular degeneration later in life.”
Iain continues: “Even on cloudy days we should all be wearing UV protective lenses when the UV index reaches three or above. 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 1836:2005 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 CE or British Standard mark.
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
6. Check out the range of funky colours and sunglass designs available for children.
To protect your family’s eyes this summer the Eyecare Trust has produced the Get UV Protected guide to safe sun vision. This is free from many high street optometrists or can be downloaded direct from the Eyecare Trust’s website www.eyecare-trust.org.uk.
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For more press information contact:
Rachel Robson, Eyecare Trust Press Office Tel: 01225 423394 or Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Notes to editors
The Eyecare Trust is a registered charity that exists to raise awareness of all aspects of ocular health and the importance of regular eyecare. For more information please visit: www.eyecaretrust.org.uk
* Log on to www.metoffice.gov.uk/weather/uk/uk_forecast_uv.html for daily UV index.
** According to the World Health Organisation.
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