My practice is bustling in the summer when the kids are out of school and many parents are looking for alternatives to glasses for their children. While I care for adult patients too, I often find myself fielding questions about how to keep kids’ eyes healthy in summer. Most of the time, parents’ concerns can be broken down into 3 categories: sun damage, contact lens use, and developing nearsightedness.
Most people are aware that ultraviolet light from the sun or other sources can damage skin, but it can also cause vision loss, and this damage compounds over time. This means that UV exposure at a young age is worse than UV exposure later on. For this reason, most eye doctors recommend a lens material with UV protection for their patients wearing glasses. But what about those patients wearing contact lenses? Fortunately, many contact lenses on the market offer UV protection. For those who don’t require vision correction, a wide-brimmed hat and sunglasses with a UV filter are a good bet.
Contact lenses worn during summer activities such as swimming and boating carry increased risk of infection and subsequent vision loss, so water and contact lenses should not mix at any time of year. Alternative vision correction methods such as prescription swim goggles or orthokeratology can alleviate this concern. For land-based activities, contact lenses can offer an improved visual experience and may be more comfortable than a pair of glasses.
These days, many parents are becoming more aware of the growing amount of myopia, or nearsightedness in our children. Myopia studies have demonstrated a protective benefit correlated with outdoor play, so I encourage parents to get out there as much as possible and enjoy our beautiful Michigan summertime with their kids.
Dr. Williamson sees patients at Michigan Eye and Contact Lens in Novi. She is a member of the Children’s Vision Committee of the Michigan Optometric Association, a Fellow of the Contact Lens Society of America, and a member of the American Optometric Association and American Academy of Optometry.