Note to parents: Smart kids wear sunglasses!

Gordon Bigler with one of his daughters. Courtesy
Gordon Bigler with one of his daughters. Courtesy

By Gordon Bigler

My wife and I (we met playing tennis at La Jolla Rec Center) are always amazed when we go to the park or pool and look around to find most adults wearing sunglasses and hats, while the kids are not wearing either and are left fully exposed to the sun.

If it were not for a unique opportunity brought into our lives, we also would be unaware of the importance of protecting our children’s eyes from the harsh rays of the sun, beginning at a very young age.

photo
Gordon Bigler with one of his daughters. Courtesy

We have three beautiful daughters. Our oldest was born with a rare eye condition known as

Aniridia

  1. This is a condition that affects the eye in several ways, but most apparent is the lack of an iris in the eye.

The iris works to regulate the amount of light that enters the eye and enables one to see in varying degrees of light. In our daughters’ case, both eyes lack an iris and as a result, her eyes are fully dilated at all times.

The best analogy we can think of is when one walks out of the movie theater and into the bright sunlight, it is blinding until our eyes adjust. In our daughters’ case, this is what everyday feels like. Her eyes are unable to adjust in blocking any sunlight and a normal sunny day for most people is blinding for her.

As we’ve become educated about

Aniridia

, how it affects our daughter and our everyday life, we came across a significant amount of scientific data describing the importance of sun eye protection in children. What’s ironic is that it’s even more critical to protect our children’s eyes than our own!

We are passionate about eye sun protection and have integrated sunglasses into our immediate and extended family.

Beginning at birth, all our children have worn sunglasses every time they go outside. Our extended family has also adopted this policy because modeling desired behavior is so important for children when learning what behaviors are expected.

We’d like to share some of the knowledge we’ve accumulated to increase awareness of the importance of protecting children’s eyes.

• Children tend to spend more time outdoors than most adults. It is widely accepted that nearly half of a person’s lifetime exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation takes place by age 18. UV radiation from sunlight is associated with multiple age-related eye problems, including cataracts and macular degeneration.

• Children are more susceptible to retinal damage from UV rays because the lens inside a child’s eye is clearer than an adult lens, enabling more UV to penetrate deep into the eye. In addition to causing eye problems, UV rays can cause skin cancer of the face, including the delicate skin of the eyelids and the area around the eyes.

• Overexposure to UV light can cause a serious and painful “sunburn” of the cornea, medically known as

photokeratitis

, which can cause a temporary loss of vision that is commonly called “snow blindness” and growths on the surface of the eye. The more exposure you’ve had to the sun’s harmful UV rays during your lifetime, the more at risk you are for these sight-limiting conditions.

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