Protecting your children’s eyes – as easy as UV A, B, C.

Protecting your children’s eyes – as easy as UV A, B, C.

Clare Downes, Optometrist at Downes Opticians, Leith warns us of the damage sunshine has on our eyes.

I’ve recently been noticing a huge increase of Patients in their early 40’s showing early signs of cataracts (more commonly found in your 60’s and 70’s).  This got me to thinking why? –  It came to me that most of the UV damage to the lens in our eye occurs in childhood.

Us lovely parents fast approaching and in our 40’s were the first generation who went on ‘package holidays’ or spent hours and hours outside in the sunshine,  in those days the damages of UV weren’t well documented, anyone else remember being slathered in chamomile lotion after a day in the sun!!!

Therefore I thought it best to give us a wee refresher on why sunglasses for children are a must:


UV light is more damaging for children than adults: we all know how easily their delicate skin can burn but how can UV damage your children’s eyes? (Here comes the science bit)

UVA rays cause skin ageing and wrinkling and contribute to skin cancer, such as melanoma.

UVB rays are also dangerous, causing sunburn (there is an association between sunburn under the age of 20 and melanoma), cataracts (clouding of the lens in the eye), and effects on the immune system. The ozone layer helps by reducing the amount of rays getting through.

UVC rays are the most dangerous, but fortunately, these rays are blocked by the ozone layer and don’t reach the earth.

But what are the effects of UV radiation on the eye? 

  • Cataract: an eye disease where the lens becomes increasingly opaque, resulting in impaired vision and eventual blindness.  Increased exposure to UV in childhood can result in the earlier onset of cataract.
  • Pterygium: a white or creamy fleshy growth on the surface of the eye.  Often seen in our patients who have spent a lot of time outdoors especially in their childhood.  Our Optometrist Linda having grown up in New Zealand and with their lack of Ozone layer has the milder version of this condition – pinguecula.
  • Squamous cell carcinoma of the cornea or conjunctiva: thankfully a rare tumour of the surface of the eye.
  • Snow blindness is effectively sunburn of the eyes often occurring when skiing or playing in the snow.   Although the symptoms are very painful and worrying for all, they cause no long-term damage

We will have been exposed to 50% of our lifetime’s sunshine by the time we are 18 years old therefore it is critical that we start protecting our eyes from day one.

Here are a few handy hints when considering sunglasses for your children.

  • Always buy sunglasses that block the maximum amount (99 to 100%) of both types of UV-A and UV-B rays, fit closely to the face and have larger lenses for more coverage.
  • Not just any sunglasses will do. Putting low-quality sunglasses on your child is worse than wearing no glasses at all. This is because poor-quality sunglasses can cause your child’s pupils to dilate – therefore letting more UVA and UVB rays into the eyes without offering the protection.
  • Many people like polarized lenses, which reduce glare and surface reflections. Snow reflections increase UV by 80%, water reflections increase UV by 25%, and sand 15%.
  • Choosing polycarbonate lenses can provide extra impact resistance, if your child will be wearing them for sports/outdoor activities.
  • Remember to replace sunglasses once the lenses become scratched as the UV filter may be compromised.
  • In addition to sunglasses, wear a hat to reduce overall exposure to UV rays.
  • Don’t look directly at the sun and teach your children not to as well.
  • For very young children limit the amount of time spent outside during the peak hours of sunshine (11am to 2pm).

Choosing sunglasses can be difficult as not all children enjoy wearing sunglasses, especially the first few times. To encourage them to wear them, let your child select a style they like — whether it is footballs, butterflies or even Peppa Pig! 

And don’t forget that kids want to be like grown-ups. If you wear sunglasses regularly, your kids may be willing to follow your example. With the bonus of keeping those pesky cataracts at bay. 

At Downes Opticians we are at the forefront of providing comprehensive eye care and education for all the family.  We provide a great range of children’s sunglasses which are all 100% UVA and UVB protected.

It is the perfect time to take advantage of our ongoing Kids 2 for 1 offer, with the bonus of free sunglasses as the second pair for the months of May and June.  We provide both prescription and non-prescription sunglasses starting from £20.  As we are always bang on trend, we even have children’s RayBans, which are ever so cool and adorable. (Not forgetting RayBan, Prada, Tom Ford and our unique Face a Face and Etnia Barcelona ranges and many more for the Mummies and Daddies)

We look forward to helping you with any questions or concerns you have, please contact us on 0131 553 5358 or alternatively through our website