The World Health Organisation (WHO) state that the chronic effects of the sun’s UV radiation on the eyes include Cataracts, Pterygium and Squamous cell Carcinoma.
Unfortunately, the link between eye health and the sun is not widely understood.
Perhaps even less widely known is how most of the sun’s UV damage to the eyes happens in childhood. Whilst the diseases present themselves later in life, the damage occurs very early on.
Estimates suggest that up to 80 per cent of a person’s lifetime UV exposure to the eyes occurs before the age of 18. This is because firstly, children typically spend more time outdoors than adults and secondly, as the crystalline lens of a child is still developing, it transmits more UV to the retina than that of an adult.
This all adds up to the fact that wearing sunglasses during childhood will make a significant difference to your eye health outcome.
We all know that when we go out in the sun without sunglasses we start squinting. This can lead to tiredness, dry eyes and headaches.
Most adults use discomfort in the sun as a cue to put sunglasses on. Unfortunately most children don’t connect the dots and use this as the cue to put sunglasses on as well.
So often we see parents out and about with their children and whilst the parents are wearing sunglasses the children are not. By children gaining an understanding of how wearing sunglasses is protecting their eye health for the long term but also making them more immediately comfortable we believe that we will see a lot more children wearing sunglasses in the future.
And it’s not just in summer that we need them!
Research has shown that most clouds do not protect from UV, therefore even on overcast days with high cloud, the UV index is only slightly reduced from 1.0 (where no or minimal cloud is present) to 0.9 (Walsh, K., UV Radiation and the Eye).
This means that unless there is rain, fog or low clouds it ‘s best to keep your sunglasses on, summer and winter!