Children and Sunglasses

Dr. Russel Lazarus, August 12, 2021

By age 18, our eyes have received 80% of their lifelong UV exposure from the sun (World Health Organization).

Many parents question if their children need to wear sunglasses. The answer is simple – yes, they do! Since the sun’s UV rays accumulate over time, children should begin wearing sunglasses as soon as they begin to play outdoors.

Why should children wear sunglasses?

Children’s eyes are more susceptible to UV rays than adult eyes, necessitating the use of sunglasses from an early age.

Children are at a higher risk for a number of sight-threatening eye diseases later in life because UV light causes cell damage in the eye.

Another reason children may require more eye protection than adults is that they spend more time outside. Because of this higher exposure, as well as their heightened susceptibility to UV rays, eye protection is necessary.

What are common eye problems caused by sunlight?

UV radiation has been linked to an increased risk of the following eye diseases:


Cataracts are the clouding of the eye’ lens. For those who have cataracts it’s as if looking through a frosty window.

In 2017, the International Journal of Scientific Study conducted a study on the effects of ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun and whether it triggers various ophthalmic problems. Cataracts were more likely to occur than any other eye condition.

Contact an eye doctor near you to find out what sunglasses will best protect your child’s eyes.

SEE RELATED: Choosing Glasses for Children

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Pterygium, often known as “surfer’s eye,” is a benign tumor caused by UV radiation causing cells in the conjunctiva, the eye’s outer protective layer, to divide abnormally, resulting in a whitish growth near the cornea.

Pterygium is a condition that affects both eyes and can develop to the point where the front of the eye becomes misshapen. As the cornea becomes distorted, your eyesight may become significantly blurred.

Photoconjunctivitis & Photokeratitis

UV radiation from the sun induces inflammation of the tissues within the eye in both circumstances, this is often called ‘eye sunburn’.

Photoconjunctivitis is an inflammation of the conjunctiva, while photokeratitis is an infection of the cornea.

These conditions are common in children and can cause a variety of unpleasant symptoms, such as pain and blurred vision.

Skin cancer near the eyes

Despite the fact that sunscreen is needed for skin protection during outdoor activities, most people avoid applying it near their eyes since it stings.

Unfortunately, UV radiation can harm the skin around the eyes, increasing the risk of skin cancer in that area.

The sooner you start protecting the skin around your child’s eyes, the better.

Regular eye exams

Regular eye exams with your eye doctor are the best way to ensure that your child’s eyes stay healthy.

An eye doctor can  correct your child’s  vision (if needed), diagnose any eye problems and discuss the types of sunglasses that are available for vision correction and/or UV protection.

LEARN MORE:  Guide to Children’s Eye Exams

Schedule an appointment with an eye doctor near you to help you pick out the best sunglasses for your child.

Protecting a child’s eyes from harmful UV rays is vital to reduce the risks of sight-threatening eye conditions later in life.