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Guard Kids' Eyes Against Long-Term Sun Damage

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SATURDAY, May 15 -- With May designated as UV awareness month, experts are calling on parents to pay special heed to the safety of their children's eyes this summer.

Although eye protection is a concern for people of all ages, Prevent Blindness America, the nation's oldest eye health and safety organization, warns that children are particularly vulnerable to the harmful ultraviolet A and B (UVA and UVB) damage that can accompany sun exposure.

For one, children generally spend more time in the sun, the group noted. In addition, the organization highlights the American Optometric Association's cautionary finding that the lenses of young eyes are more transparent than that of adults, risking retinal exposure to a greater degree of short wavelength light.

"We need to remember to protect our eyes from UV every day of the year," Hugh R. Parry, president and CEO of Prevent Blindness America, said in a news release. "UV rays reflecting off the water, sand, pavement and even snow are extremely dangerous. We can encourage our children to wear the proper eye protection by leading by example."

UV exposure has been linked to the onset of cataracts, macular degeneration and a wide array of eye health issues, the experts noted.

Prevent Blindness America advises that everyone who goes out in the sun should wear sunglasses that block out 99 percent to 100 percent of both UVA and UVB radiation -- noting that sunglasses without such protection can actually cause the pupils to dilate, thereby doing more harm than good.

A wide-brimmed hat or cap also offers some measure of eye protection, the group suggested.

With specific respect to children, Prevent Blindness America further encourages parents to ensure that sunglasses fit their child's face properly and shields the sun's rays from all directions. The group points out that wrap-around sunglasses might be optimal in the later regard, because they additionally protect the skin immediately surrounding a child's eyes.

Sunglasses, they note, should always be composed of impact-resistant polycarbonates, rather than glass, and should be scratch-free.

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