UV rays causing eye damage to become 'silent epidemic' among Australian children

A large number of Aussie kids are suffering from eye damage due to the sun, with doctors saying UV rays can lead to health issues including cataracts and blindness.

However protection is simple - sunglasses.


Eye experts say the fierce Australian sun's rays are causing damage to children's eyes - even when it's overcast.

"It's absolutely a silent epidemic," ophthalmologist Dr Shanel Sharma told 7 News. 

One child, seven-year-old Avi, was playing outside and suffered sunburn to both of his eyes.

"He kept on complaining of his burning eyes, he kept squinting a lot," said Avi's mum, Fran.

According to Dr Sharma, research shows one in three children under 12 had UV eye damage. This can lead to long-term diseases including cancer, cataracts, macular degeneration and blindness.

"In our study, 80 percent - four out of five children - have damage to their eyes by the time they reach 15," Dr Sharma said. 

As few ready-to-wear sunglasses provided full protection for kids' eyes, Dr Sharma's team developed wraparound sunglasses called 'Beamers'.

"[These are designed] to protect you from the overhead light, the reflected light and that sneaky light that will hit at the back of the lens."

Eye experts are advising parents to make sure their children wear purpose-made, category three sunglasses outside every day - not fashion glasses. These provide optimum UV protection from every angle.

"I know that I should wear my sunglasses every time I'm in the sun," Avi said.

"He thinks they're so cool," Fran confirmed. "He thinks he should wear them in class."

Another option is Banz Carewear sunglasses, which offer UV400, category 3, protection.