The recent Transitions Healthy Sight Survey, released to coincide with World Sight Day (8 October 2009), has revealed that 48% of South Africans – whose children don’t wear corrective glasses or contact lenses – have never had their children’s eyes checked by an optometrist; a worrying figure as parents should be taking their children for an eye check at least once a year. On average, a child is exposed to three times more harmful UV rays than an adult and can have serious often irreversible, consequences on the eyes.
Although most parents are aware of the need to protect their children’s skin from the sun, the potential damage the sun can have on the eyes is far less noted.
Children especially susceptible to UV damage
Acute UV exposure can cause photokeratitis and photoconjunctivitis, and exposure to UVB rays can lead to cataract development later in life. Although UV rays are dangerous for eyes young and old, children are especially susceptible to UV damage due to a number of contributing factors. The crystalline lenses in children’s eyes are not fully developed and cannot adequately filter UV radiation. Well into their teenage years, children’s eyes are most in danger of being damaged by harmful UV rays; the effects of which are usually only detected later on in life.
Early detection can help rectify or prevent eye conditions from worsening or causing permanent, irreversible damage. The World Health Organisation (WHO) recommends that children protect not only their skin but specifically recommends children wear sun-protective spectacles at all times.
Protecting children’s eyes from UV rays today will minimise the risk of damage to their sight in future. “It’s never too early to start looking after the well-being and health of your children’s eyes,” says Richard Pearson, Country Manager Transitions Optical South Africa. “Also, wearing corrective spectacle lenses from a young age could help reverse ones lens prescription over time2 and protecting the eyes from harmful UV rays can help reduce the onset of age-related macular degeneration (AMD).”
Healthy sight in every bite
Once upon a time your mother probably told you that the reason why rabbits have such good eye sight is because they eat carrots. She was talking more sense than you may think. The Transitions Healthy Sight Survey also revealed that the majority of South African parents (99%) know that carrots, spinach and salmon are good for their family’s eyes but less than half (four out of 10) of respondents were aware that unhealthy eating habits can damage your eyes and exacerbate eye-related diseases. With childhood obesity on the increase worldwide, it is suggested that parents take more care what they are preparing for mealtimes.
“Systemic diseases such as diabetes and glaucoma – easily detected during a routine eye check – are no longer exclusively known as ‘adult diseases’. More and more research is showing that unhealthy eating habits in children’s formative years translates into physical, including visual, problems in their teenage and adult years. An eye test is about much more than just your vision,” says Pearson.
To keep your family’s eyes fit and healthy, pack your shopping trolley with healthy, nutritional foods. “‘Eye food’ can be found in many types of fresh fruit, vegetables, nuts, legumes, seeds and seafood,” adds Dr Nicky Welsh, ophthalmologist at Wits Donald Gordon Medical Centre. “What few consumers realise is that there is an abundance of food on supermarket shelves bursting with essential nutrients; all beneficial for the eyes. Soy beans, flaxseeds and salmon are crammed with anti-oxidants, carotenoids, minerals and vitamins.”
(by liquidlingo Communications for Transitions Optical)