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UV radiation risks for young eyes

9 February 2006

UV radiation risks for young eyes

Children's eyes are at risk of long-term damage from over exposure to damaging UV radiation, optometrists warn.

Visique, the national chain of optometrists, believes a lack of awareness of the problem is placing children's eyes at risk. Optometrist John Adam, of Visique Adam Optometrists, says it is proven that early and prolonged exposure to UV radiation increases the likelihood of developing cataracts and macular degeneration later in life. Untreated, cataracts (clouding of the lens inside the eye) can lead to blindness.

The Optometrists Association of Australia recently released the findings of research that shows only one in 10 Australians is aware of the damage sun exposure can cause to eyesight.

Mr Adam believes it will be a similar statistic in New Zealand. "I'd suggest there's little awareness among New Zealanders of the risks to their eyes from UV radiation, and particularly the risks for children," he says. "Our eyesight gets 80% of its exposure to harmful UV radiation by the time we are 18, so the need to protect children's eyes is more imperative than for adults."

The best form of protection for children's eyes is to wear sunglasses, and a hat. Sunglasses do not have to be expensive, but should offer 100% UV protection and have a quality lens, Mr Adam advises.

In February, Visique is launching a campaign through primary schools to raise awareness of the risks to children's eyesight, and to encourage the wearing of sunglasses. As part of the programme, it is offering a free pair of sunglasses to primary-school new entrants. Vouchers for the sunglasses are being distributed through schools and are redeemable at Visique stores nationwide.


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