Considering that 80% of our lifetime exposure to UV occurs in our first 18 years, the UV-protective power of photochromics is particularly effective for kids.
In my professional interactions, I’ve noticed that there is a sense of hesitation by eyecare professionals to recommend photochromic lenses to kids. However, it is important to realize that offering photochromic lenses to all of your patients, especially children, makes sense because natural vision is created by light, and lighting conditions change throughout the day.
While the eye regulates the amount of light that enters, it’s not a perfect system. The eye can be overwhelmed by strong light. The eye also does not handle glare well. In addition to the temporary discomfort these situations cause, longer exposure to them creates eye fatigue and visual discomfort. This is where photochromic lenses come in. They regulate light so the eye can take a lesser role, and they significantly reduce glare in its multiple forms. Add an anti-reflective treatment and you have a terrific glare-fighting lens .
Kids are especially good candidates for photochromic lenses. They spend a good deal of their days outdoors. Photochromic lenses in polycarbonate or Trivex material are impact resistant and block 100% of UVA and UVB rays. This is extremely important to the young visual system because overexposure to UV will play a significant role in long-term eye health. Consider the fact that 80% of our lifetime exposure to UV rays occurs in our first 18 years of life and contributes to the development of eye health issues such as cataracts in our later years. Photochromic lenses are an investment for a lifetime of eye health protection.
The traditional photochromic lens is almost clear indoors and darkens outdoors. Some photochromic lenses are also polarized. Transitions Vantage lenses are virtually clear indoors and darken and polarize when exposed to UV. For children who might benefit from a mild tint indoors, Transitions XtrActive lenses offer a slight tint for indoor use and can get as dark as ordinary sunglasses outdoors. In addition, Rudy Project uses proprietary Impact X photochromic polarized lenses in its sports eyewear that activates to UV light.
Parents are becoming increasingly aware that visual comfort is necessary for their child in the classroom and on the playground. This could require the investment in two pairs of eyeglasses, one clear pair for indoors and sunwear for outdoors. While this is a good option, photochromic lenses offer the convenience of purchasing one pair of eyeglasses that meets the visual needs for both environments. Now you can talk to parents about saving money while still giving their child the visual comfort and protection they need.
Many children take medications that can cause photosensitivity. The most commonly prescribed medications for children that increase their risk are attention deficit hyperactivity disorder medications such as Ritalin, steroids/inhalers to treat asthma, medications used in the treatment of acne, such as Accutane, and antibiotics. Photochromic lenses are a good choice in these circumstances because they filter the UV light that photosensitizes the eye.
WHY ARE THEY NOT PRESCRIBED?
There are a number of reasons why kids are not getting photochromic lenses, even though their need is evident. A 2015 st udy by Transitions discovered that six out of 10 American parents have not taken their children to the eye doctor within the past year. Without an eye examination, kids can’t get the visual and eye protection they need. This is compounded by about half of Americans (49%) noticing that their child or children needed glasses at a younger age than when they actually got their glasses. Getting their kids to get and wear eyeglasses is not the issue. The study also discovered that 70% of parents who wear corrective eyewear and whose children wear glasses say that their children react positively to wearing and needing glasses.
There may be several reasons why photochromic lenses are not offered to every child who comes into our optical offices. Their parents’ lack of knowledge about photochromic lenses and their features and benefits is the most prevalent. Cost might also be a factor because the photochromic feature is an add-on to clear lenses in most cases, but buying a single pair of photochromic lenses for both indoor and outdoor wear saves substantially on sunglasses, which every child should have. As eyecare providers, it’s up to us to make the recommendation to every parent and let them make the decision that’s right.
Don’t miss the opportunity to offer photochromic lenses to kids to improve their lives, both today and tomorrow.
Jill Luebbert, CPOT, ABOC, is a certified paraoptometric and optician practicing in northeastern Nebraska
WHERE TO FIND IT:
Rudy Project North America 888.860.7597 • rudyprojectusa.com
Transitions Optical, Inc. 800.848.1506 • essilortransitions.com