Page last updated at 00:09 GMT, Tuesday, 18 August 2009 01:09 UK

Parents 'ignoring eye sun danger'


Optometrist Dr Susan Blakeney gives her tips for choosing protective shades

Three in four parents are risking their child's eyesight by exposing them to bright sun without appropriate protection, experts warn.

Nearly a third of parents in Britain do not buy their children sunglasses, a poll of 2,000 people for the College of Optometrists revealed.

Of those who do, nearly half put price before protection and only a quarter buy sunglasses from a trusted brand.

The College recommends choosing dark glasses with a CE mark for quality.

Sunglasses don't need to be expensive to offer good protection but it is important for parents to check that the pair they buy carry a CE Mark
Optometrist Dr Susan Blakeney

People with light coloured eyes are most at risk from sun damage and those with blue eyes should always wear sunglasses, the experts advise.

UV rays from sunlight can damage the retina and the lens of the eye and can lead to long-term damage.

Too much exposure is linked to conditions like cataracts and age-related macular degeneration.

Wearing cheap sunglasses with no UV filters poses an even greater danger than wearing none at all because the pupils will dilate allowing more harmful rays into the eye.

Buy good quality dark sunglasses from a reputable seller
Look for the standard CE mark for quality
Ensure they are a good fit - children should not be able to peep over the top
Bands can be worn to keep the sunglasses on - particularly useful for the sporty

And the risk is cumulative, meaning the more UV exposure a person has the higher their risk will be.

Dr Susan Blakeney, optometric adviser at the College of Optometrists, said: "I am shocked to see that so many parents aren't ensuring that their child's eyes are protected in the sun, and am equally astounded to see that of those who do, many are opting for 'cheap and cheerful' over quality.

"Sunglasses don't need to be expensive to offer good protection but it is important for parents to check that the pair they buy carry a CE mark."

She said most children would happily wear sunglasses but said a sunhat to shade the eyes would also work, particularly for infants who may pull the glasses off.

However, research has shown mixed results about whether UV causes significant damage.

Consultant paediatric ophthalmologist Michael Clarke said the issue was controversial.

The Royal College of Ophthalmologists recommends children wear protective sunglasses if they are likely to be exposed to a lot of UV light, such as during a day at the beach.

Very young children should not be exposed to bright sunshine at all, says the college.

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