Kentucky Afield Outdoors: Don’t overlook proper eye protection


FRANKFORT – Every angler has at one time or another forgotten something in their rush to leave for a fishing trip.

It’s disheartening when that something is sunglasses. Squinting and shielding your eyes for hours takes some of the fun out of the experience.

“More than just the damage or discomfort from the bright light, you start getting eye strain because you’re squinting to make your pupil even smaller because your pupil doesn’t get small enough naturally,” said Dr. Seema Capoor, an associate professor of Ophthalmology at the University of Kentucky. “The squinting causes brow ache and tension headaches. It’s much more comfortable and safer with sunglasses.”

However, not all sunglasses are created equal. The best cut glare and make it easier to see into the water but also block the sun’s harmful rays.

Amid a sea of brands and styles and lens types and colors at a wide range of prices, it’s easy to become overwhelmed by the choices, so stick to some basic criteria when selecting a pair.

“For something like fishing where you’ve got a lot of reflection off the surface of the water and you’re out in direct sunlight my recommendation would be to go with more of the wraparound style of sunglasses,” Capoor said. “Get the good UV filter in the lenses and polarization. The anti-reflective coating or mirror coating on the outside surface is also very helpful.”

Look for sunglasses that block 99 to 100 percent of ultraviolet rays.

Ultraviolet radiation can affect different layers of the eye and continued exposure without protection may lead to permanent eye damage. Regular use of sunglasses can slow down cataract formation and lessen the risks of macular degeneration. They can also retard the development of pterygium, an eye condition distinguished by a wing-like growth on the cornea that can interfere with vision and affect anyone who spends a lot of time outdoors, Capoor said.

“We know it’s associated with exposure to ultraviolet light,” she said. “Fishermen get it a lot. Farmers get it. And closer to the equator where people are at higher altitudes, they get it. It can start out young and then the continued exposure without protection can make it progress and get worse. It can require surgical intervention.”

Children and people with light-colored eyes should be particularly mindful about wearing sunglasses.

“Times have changed and there’s more penetration of ultraviolet light from the atmosphere than there was 30 years ago,” Capoor said. “It is advisable for children, especially blue-eyed or light-eyed children, to be wearing protective sunglasses now.”

Composite lenses made from impact-resistant polycarbonate material are lighter than glass and ideal for anglers.

Polycarbonate also is the preferred lens material for shooting glasses. Protective eye wear is required at all shooting ranges on Wildlife Management Areas in Kentucky.

“Things can happen when you’re shooting guns,” said Mark Marraccini, spokesman for the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources and an experienced trap shooter. “A lot of your automatics, whenever the shell is ejected and it comes flying back, little hot flecks of burning powder may come out with it. They’ll get in the corner of your eye and they’re painful. Plus, a lot of times, other people on ranges are shooting and there’s the off chance that you can get ricochets and deflections or pieces of shot. On pistol ranges, bullets shatter when they hit steel silhouettes and you can get sprayed that way.

“It’s important to remember that there’s a real serious explosion at really high pressure that’s happening about three inches in front of your face. When you put it that way, shooting glasses are extremely important.”

On the water, polarized lenses are highly recommended for anglers because they sharpen vision by reducing glare from the sun’s reflection.

Darker lenses don’t necessarily block more UV rays although they may be preferred by people who are extremely sensitive to light. The environmental conditions can dictate the right lens color.

Gray, brown and green tints are best at providing maximum contrast while maintaining clarity and offering the most sun protection, Capoor said.

Most anglers prefer grey, green or amber colored lenses.

Gray is a good all-purpose lens tint that cuts down on extremely bright conditions and won’t distort colors. Green also limits color distortion, reduces glare and improves contrast in bright sun. Brown and amber are versatile tints that cut glare and filter out blue light, increasing contrast and sharpness, especially on cloudy days.

Yellow reduces glare and enhances depth perception and contrast in low light or hazy conditions. It is considered a better option for shooters than anglers.

“Different lens colors will help different colored targets stand out better,” Marraccini said. “In different lighting conditions, they make the targets even more visible than if you weren’t wearing any glasses at all.”

We’re taught to apply sunscreen liberally and often to protect our skin from overexposure to the sun. Sunglasses and shooting glasses are just as important. Summer is a great time to shop around for the right pair and to remember not to leave them at home. Your eyes will thank you.

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