Virtual school is over and Summer is officially here! Now that we have more time in our schedules, the big question parents are asking me is what can they do with their kids this summer to maintain healthy eyes and vision.
Here are my three quick & easy eye care tips:
1. Get Outside!
Did you know that studies show exposure to sunlight is one of the most important factors in preventing someone from becoming myopic (or nearsighted), which is when someone needs to wear glasses to see in the distance? Researchers don’t fully understand why, but they do know that spending at least two hours a day enjoying outdoor activities is beneficial in reducing the risk. The study published in JAMA Ophthalmology found that young adolescents who are exposed to UVB rays have a 30% lower risk of developing myopia!
Myopia is not simply just the need to wear glasses. It is a progressive disorder of the eyes that can lead to long-term eye complications such as retinal detachments and glaucoma. It is rapidly increasing in prevalence worldwide and this sobering statistic really sends this home: by 2050 close to 50% of the world’s population will be myopic and almost 10% will be highly myopic!
2. Wear Sunglasses/Hats
Now, I know I just told you to go outside, but try for the early morning or late afternoon when UV rays are not as strong. It is a delicate balance of getting the benefits of the sun exposure, while limiting the risks!
From an eye health perspective, it really is never too early to have your child start wearing sunglasses or large brimmed hats to protect their eyes. Although our eyes are able to absorb most of the sun’s UV rays and prevent them from getting to the back of the eye, sunglasses are designed to protect the skin around our eyes, our lids and the more anterior structures that are susceptible to damage from UV rays. Prolonged exposure to UV rays can cause skin cancer (5-10% of all skin cancers are located on the lids!), the development of pinguecula/pterygium that can lead to dry eye and even vision distortion as well as the advancement of cataracts.
An important distinction is that the eye is pretty good at filtering out natural UV light, but not so great at filtering out the blue light emitted from the sun, which is known to cause the progression of age-related macular degeneration. With that, here is my PSA: not all sunglasses are made equal! You want to look for eyewear that block 100% UVA/UVB ray AND have blue light blocking technology built in.
3. Limit Device Use & Wear Blue Light Glasses
This tip rounds out my recommendation because it comes full circle with my other two recommendations: one, we know that blue light from the sun is not filtered by our eye. All of our devices emit a much lower level of blue light, but at a much closer proximity, and we need to protect our eyes from all the potential damaging effects (click here for a full article on those!). And two, extended near work/device use was also linked to an increase in myopia and other vision problems.
So try to limit device use as much as possible, but if your child does get some screen time be sure to utilize blue light blocking glasses to protect their eyes.
GUNNAR recently launched their Cruz line that puts their patented technology into kids frames. These eyeglasses are made with either their clear lens (blocks 35% of blue light) or their amber tint (blocks 65%) and can be made with your child’s prescription built in!
With everything going on in the world we all deserve some R&R and some good old fashioned family time. So get outside, get moving and take care to protect your child’s eyes!