Protecting ALL kids eyes


World Society of Paediatric Ophthalmology & Strabismus Consensus Statement 

Sunlight Exposure and Childrens’ Eyes

Statement: While there are cultural and ethnic variances across different parts of the globe which must be respected, shielding children’s eyes from excessive ambient UV radiation in direct and reflected sunlight is extremely important - based on cumulative evidence from epidemiologic human studies and experimental animal studies. Significant long-term damage to eye-related tissues (the eyelid skin, conjunctiva, cornea, lens and in young children possibly the retina) can be caused by UV radiation, and thus can be prevented.

Children who have undergone cataract surgery and some with other ocular diseases may be at even greater risk of retinal damage; protective UVA/B blocking glasses are especially important for these children. The best prevention continues to be avoidance of significant sun exposure during the highest risk time periods during the day (typically ‘9 to 5’) and during the year. When outside look for shaded areas and wear brimmed hats.

With this in mind whenever outside appropriate UVA/B blocking protective lenses in well fitted, safe spectacle frames are valuable for all; particularly in the younger child, adolescent and those who are geographically or medically at higher risk. The lenses should block at least 99% of UVA/B light and meet local protection standards. The spectacles should (1) provide safety when impacted, (2) leave little room for light to enter around the temporal edges, and (3) be comfortable to wear for any age. Parents may look for lenses meeting local safety standards. Polarized lenses often provide greater comfort from glare, especially for light sensitive children.

Visible light is a small part of the electromagnetic radiation spectrum. Electromagnetic radiation, however, also consists of ultraviolet light (or radiation - UVR) and infrared light (or radiation -IR). The sun represents the largest single source of optical electromagnetic radiation (UV, Visible light and IR). Additionally the majority of lifetime sun exposure occurs under the age of 21.

Epidemiological data on long term sub threshold optical electromagnetic radiation exposure shows that eyelid skin is at risk for basal cell carcinoma, conjunctiva for pingueculae and pterygia, cornea for climatic droplet keratitis, lens for cortical cataract (with animal model experiments showing that younger individuals at higher risk than older ones). The retina is protected against UV radiation by the anterior segment including the lens, likely not entirely so. While the effect is unproven, there is clearly a theoretical risk of increased Age Related Macular Degeneration with long-term visible light exposure.