Early UV Protection

Early UV Protection

Did you know that an estimated 80% of a person’s lifetime exposure of UV occurs before the age of 18?

(WHO Fact sheet 261, July 2001)

The eye lenses, unlike the rest of our body, can’t repair themselves once damaged. Children and young adults are more susceptible to sun damage to the eyes. Being children, it is important that they have outdoor play time; it is crucial, however, that they have proper sun protection (sunscreen and a hat at the least). We would highly recommend that children start good habits of wearing wrap-around sunglasses with good UV protection when they play for prolonged periods outside. If your child requires vision correction, they can also wear prescription sunglasses. The Cancer Council NSW reported that sun exposure in the first 20 years increase your chance of developing eye cancer.

Australians are well educated on the dangers of prolonged sun exposure (without proper sunscreen); however, we forget the impact of the sun on our eyes.
Sunglasses are not just a fashion statement; they should also be seen as protection for our eyes from the sun, in the same way that sunscreen protects our skin. We need to understand what to look for in sunglasses to achieve the best sun protection, vision and comfort in the look you like. All proper sunglasses or optical retailers are required to provide clear labelling according to Australian Standards to help you select safe and appropriate sunglasses:

Category 0 – Fashion Spectacles (not proper sunglasses): some UV protection with very low sun glare reduction
Category 1 – Fashion Spectacles (not proper sunglasses): limited sun glare reduction with some UV protection and not for night driving
Category 2 – Sunglasses: with medium sun glare protection and good UV protection
Category 3 – Sunglasses: high sun glare protection with good UV protection (100%)
Category 4 – Sunglasses (special purpose): very high sun glare protection with good UV protection (100%)

The safest bet is to look for sunglasses with 100% UV protection, which means that the lenses will protect our children’s eyes from both UVA and UVB radiation. Also watch out for sunglasses that are labelled as “toys”, as they are fashion glasses and offer no sun protection at all to our children. Personally, as a mother, I would highly suggest to look for category 3 and 4 sunglasses. Start the good habit of getting your children to wear a hat when they play outside from early age, and when they can manage sunglasses encourage them to do so when the UV level reaches 3. If you are concerned about your current children’s or your sunglasses, most optometrists can help you assess them. The good news is, if you already have your favourite sunglasses with good UV protection, scratches on lenses are considered safe from a UV perspective (it could, however, obscure your vision depending on how deep and where the scratches are located).

Sonya Wijaya (B. Optom. PG. Spec. Cert. Cont. Lenses/ Ther. Endorsed) is an optometrist who practices in Optical In Sight (Doncaster East VIC) www.opticalinsight.com.au


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