We all know by now that safeguarding our eyes from the harsh glare of our sun is vital. Sunglasses of all shapes, colors and even sizes are easy to find in retail stores, as well as pretty much any other drug store, supermarket or convenience store. And while they are good for helping to shade our eyes from the bright light emanating from the sun, most of these do not do the one thing we absolutely need them to do - block harmful rays.
Why UV Safety is Vital in Eye Wear
Not All Sunglasses Protect Your Eyes
While many of these glasses may be cute and stylish, or may even just be cheap enough to not worry about being lost or misplaced, they are probably missing the UVA and UVA shielding our eyes need from the sun. And this is immensely more critical for children. A child's sunglasses must offer 100% UV fortification from the complex sun, which is paramount to the health and longevity of their precious eyes. Kids are more at risk from UV rays because they can instigate retinal damage, since their eyes allow more absorption of the dangerous Ultra-Violet emanation.
The Difference Between UVA and UVB Rays
UVA and UVB rays aren't the same, either. So protection from one does not automatically mean protection coverage for both. See, UVA rays themselves make up 95% of dangerous UV radiation and can penetrate through the cornea to the retina itself. But UVB rays can penetrate the ozonosphere just enough to be taken in by the cornea and the delicate lens. (A third UV radiation, UVC, is soaked up by the ozone layer and doesn't offer threats to our vision).
You wouldn't go into a tanning bed or face a laser beam without making sure you had reliable shielding for your eyes. You shouldn't take that risk with the sun, either. While it is a natural, beneficial source of much for our bodies and our planet, it also can be highly dangerous, especially with over-exposure over time.
The Dangers of Overexposure to UV Rays
UV exposure sets your eyes up for a risk similar to heating an eye in a frying pan. You know the clear part of the egg that turns white as it heats? Well, similar actions occur when the lens proteins of your eye suffer chronic UV exposure. An oxidation of Vitamin C happens in the lens, and the outcome of that oxidation is a chemical reaction with the lens proteins to cause cataracts to develop.
A lot of UV radiation exposure without proper protection over a relatively short amount of time is a process scientifically named photokeratitis. It is like the egg example above, or can be explained as a sunburn, but for your eyes. Ouch! Symptoms go from red eyes to feeling like sand is in your eye. You can also become highly sensitive to light and produce excess tears. This is commonly all transitory and will pass without enduring damage, but constant exposure can lead to health problems.
Our body is constantly replacing old and dead cells with new ones. But this is not so with the cells in the inner part of our eye lens. While newer cells are added onto the layer, the old cells exist throughout your life, from before you are born until you die. So of course we need to do all we can to protect them.
Spending a good amount of time in the sun might be unavoidable when you are taking part in outdoor activities or have a job that keeps you outside, in the sunlight day after day. However, this endless exposure to our sun and its damaging rays can result in cancers and have also been shown to increase the likelihood of cataracts, a condition which ends up clouding the eye lens. Another downside is macular deterioration, which is a main cause of vision loss in adults. And if you have lighter colored eyes, like about half of all do in this country, you are also more inclined to suffer the damaging effects of UV radiation.
Tips for Buying Your Child Sunglasses
When you are buying sunglasses for your child, take more into account that fun styles or low prices. Professionals recommend children uses eyewear and sunglasses that block out from 99% to 100% of the UV chromatic spectrum. This also includes the treacherous UVA rays, which can go deep into the eyes, and UVB rays, which affect the lens and cornea. You want lenses that screen out from 75% to 90% of the visible light. So instead of black tints, look for gray lenses, which can offer proper color perception. Wide lenses or even wrap-around sunglasses offer the best protection for your eyes from every angle possible.
Look for this protection and don't just assume if they are dark tinted they offer it. Without, the dark tint can even do more damage, since it causes the pupil to open more and allow more of those harmful rays to make their way inside.
Avoid Sunlight When UV Rays Are Strongest
Also, try to limit the time they are out there when the sun and UV threat will be at its highest. You might correlate the sun being high at midday and your child being at risk for sunburn to be the same as UV exposure height, but you would be incorrect. The skin is at high risk then, but eyes are most susceptible in the two hours before and two hours after the four hour middle of the day time frame. UV rays enter at various angles and those before and after times close to double the measure of UV than at the sun's highest points does.
Also, if you wear contact lenses that offer UV protection, don't just assume this is enough to protect your eyes. You should also wear recommended sunglasses to safeguard your eyes and make the most out of all the protection available to you.
So, basically use common sense. Avoid exposure to the sun as much as possible. This doesn't mean hiding inside, but offering shade or other solutions to get out of the bright sunlight. And if you or your child must be out there, remember sunglasses with sunscreen. And, also as you wouldn't just buy the cheap sunscreen, don't buy the cheap glasses. Look for those that sport the right protection as recommended by professionals. It is all for the benefit and health of those little kids who just want to run around and play in the sun, unaware that with its warmth come hidden dangers. That responsibility falls on you, so don't take it lightly. As with anything, enjoy the summer sun in moderation and with the proper levels of safety and precautions.