Summer is the season for re-energizing our outdoor passions and pastimes. Whether it’s angling for deep sea bass, hitting the links, cycling over mountains and gorges, or even gardening in the backyard, it’s important to maximize eye protection, minimize annoying glare, and enhance visual performance. Sporting the right lenses, enhancements, and frames is the ideal way to minimize the annoying effects of UV rays to safely enjoy the great outdoors.
While most of us have been conditioned to apply sunscreen to protect against a sunburn (and worse), few people are aware of, let alone understand, the detrimental effects of UV exposure on their eyes. While more than 8 out of 10 Americans know that extended UV exposure can cause skin cancer, fewer than 1 out of 10 know it can harm their eyes.
Sunlight is the main source of ultraviolet (UV) radiation. Different types of UV rays reach the ground in different amounts. About 95% of the UV rays from the sun that reach the ground are UVA rays, while the remaining 5% are UVB rays. Another type of UV exposure is reflected UV, which instead of emanating from overhead sources, is bounced off flat surfaces. Just like standard UV rays, reflected UV radiation can cause ocular and retinal tissue damage, including sunburn of the corneas, with chronic exposure resulting in vision-threatening disorders such as cataracts and age-related macular degeneration.
The amount of UV exposure a person gets depends on the strength of the rays, the length of exposure, and the degree of protection used.
Sunglasses are more than a fashion statement: they protect eyes from the harmful effects of UV exposure, which can lead to ocular damage.
With warm weather also comes a surge in sports and outdoor activities. Baseball, soccer and basketball are big ones, with people often hitting the fields and courts during the brightest times of day. Keep in mind that it’s not only the sun’s rays that can hurt you. A wild pitch or shot to the face can cause severe injury if eyes are left unprotected.
According to a report on youth sports injuries resulting from a nationwide study of emergency room visits related to eye problems among athletes, “Eye injuries in sports, especially youth sports, are worryingly common and often involve activities that most of us probably would not consider risky for eyes. Youth sports should be vigilant about protecting young people’s eyes, perhaps in part by stocking up on wraparound glasses.”
Which sports cause the most eye injuries?
Eye injuries in sports, especially youth sports, are worryingly common and often involve activities that most of us probably would not consider risky for eyes.
Even activities that don’t involve competitive contact – yardwork, home renovations, and other outdoor DIY projects – can expose eyes to extended periods of UV radiation and debris, which may enter the eye and cause irritation or serious injury. The right eyewear such as safety glasses or spectacles with shatterproof lenses and durable, flexible frames can help protect against these injuries
When it comes to sun protection, quality counts! Wearing inadequate sunglasses is actually worse than wearing none at all. Here’s why: inadequate sunglasses will block only some of the light, causing the iris to open and allow more light—and more UV light—to reach the retina. So, it’s important to wear high-quality lenses that block 100% of UVA and UVB rays, ideally with polarization to block glare. Fortunately, many options are available to fit every style preference and budget.
Polarized Lenses - Polarized lenses counteract the effects of glare caused by sunlight bouncing against a horizontal surface, like a body of water, beach sand, car windows, and even a building. When the sun’s rays hit a flat surface, they tend to align, become parallel and more intense, resulting in reflected glare. Just like in a camera lens, the polarization filter works like a vertical venetian blind in sunglasses, blocking this light from reaching the eye. So, wearers can see through the water instead of viewing the reflected glare for better visual acuity and comfort.
Wrap Lenses – These are occasionally required for high curvature frames for the sports enthusiast and are available in several lens types, from single vision options like Unity SVxtreme to premium progressive designs, such as Unity Via Wrap.
Progressives or Single Vision Lenses with Polycarbonate Material – When it comes to being on the go, engaging in sports and active entertainment, or just being outdoors, polycarbonate is a great lens material because of its durability and impact-resistance.
Anti-Reflective (AR) Coatings - Anti-reflective coatings improve visual performance, and add durability and anti-smudge protection to glasses, which is especially beneficial in high intensity summer sports where glasses are subject to contact and even falling off. They also minimize glare and offer protection against backside UV rays, so wearers see more clearly and protect their peepers whether lounging poolside or rock climbing in the desert.
Tints - Specialized lenses are available to provide exceptional clarity, contrast and protection in varying light conditions. Some of these are designed specifically for lifestyle niches or hobbies, including water sports, golf, fishing, cycling, ball sports and landscape gardening.
Light-Reactive Lenses - One of the best year-round enhancements for sun protection is a pair of light-reactive lenses. Great for people on the go, some options feature ultra-fast fade back and activation speeds to adapt to changing light conditions in seconds.
Frames – Some frames feature “floatable” technology, preventing sunglasses from sinking into the depths below if dropped in the water. Many are impact-resistant, making them ideal for all types of outdoor activities.
Safety Glasses – Safety glasses feature safety-grade, impact-resistant lenses, durable frames and sidepieces to protect wearers from debris entering their eyes.
Matching Eyewear to Summer Pastimes
When it comes to your patients’ favorite summer pastimes or passions, it’s important to think about the environment, how to enhance performance, and how to ideally protect eyes during the activity. For example, polarized lenses help fishermen see beneath the water and better locate fish, while unique lens tints are targeted to different types of fishing, such as deep sea, in shore, and sunrise/sunset fishing. On land, several types of tints are available for various golfing conditions, whether the focus is close-up, distant, in direct sun or shade.
Golf – Golfers experience a variety of terrain, lighting conditions and the need to see far down the fairway and close-up to view their range finder or scorecard. Progressives or single vision, with light-reactive lenses are ideal in an impact-resistant material to prevent eye injuries from stray balls, tees and flying debris when driving the cart. A variety of tints are also available; for example, some golfers prefer rose tints to improve their ability to read the greens.
Hiking or Running - Similar to cycling, running and hiking require UV protection and visual comfort, as well as the acuity to see holes, cracks, sticks, and other ankle sprainers. As such, Ultra-fast, extra reactive, light-reactive lenses are a great choice for hikers and runners, whether hitting the trails or pounding the pavement. A polarized wrap with impact-resistant lenses are a great recommendation for patients who don’t want a photochromic.
Ball Sports (baseball, softball, volleyball, soccer, basketball, football, tennis) – Polarized lenses with tints are great choices for summer sports. Some tints even provide enhanced performance in different conditions (gray on sunny day, brown/copper on cloudy day) to help a batter connect on a fastball, or a receiver reel in the winning touchdown. For kids, polarized or photochromic safety glasses are always a good idea. For athletes who want a clear lens, a single vision or progressive in polycarbonate or Trivex with a premium AR coating delivers durability, glare reduction, and UV protection minus the tint. Make it a blue-light reducing AR and they can shift from the field to the screen with the confidence of defense in both environments.
Boating – Excellent vision in bright conditions and 100% UV protection (front and backside) are essential for boating, where glare and UV come at drivers and passengers from all angles. Gray or brown polarized lenses in impact-resistant polycarbonate or Trivex with a premium AR coating, provide the acuity, durability, and defense boaters need whether at the wheel, at the mast, or at ease on the deck.
Swimming – While most swimmers wear contacts when they’re doing their laps or just hanging out in in the pool, prescription swim goggles are available for non-contacts wearers.
Wrapping it Up
hen engaging in summer pastimes – from the beach to the mountains and everywhere in between – excellent visibility makes the activity safer and more enjoyable. From glare reduction, to increased visual acuity, to eye protection, to adaptability to changing surroundings, optical solutions offering all of these benefits are available to offer wearers an ideal experience.
So encourage your patients to forge into their favorite outdoor pastimes this summer with the proper lenses, enhancements, and frames to keep their eyes safely focused on the fun!
 UUniversity course: “Sunglasses: More than a Fashion Accessory.”
 Vision Monthly 2019 as reported by The New York Times 2016 study
 Boston Children’s Hospital. https://www.childrenshospital.org/conditions-and-treatments/conditions/e/eye-injuries
Don't Miss Out!
Subscribe to the In_Sight Newsletter to get the latest blog posts delivered directly to your inbox.
5 Digital Eye Strain Hacks to Enhance Patient and Practice Experience
Changing Your Preferred Progressive Lens: A Blueprint for A Successful Switch (Part I)
How Unity Via Helped this New Jersey Practice Overcome Change Anxiety