Sunglasses have enjoyed immense popularity for use during sports and recreational activities over time. This is in part because tinted eyewear enhances visual performance. On a bright sunny day the retina in the back of your eye becomes saturated and your ability to judge contrast sensitivity, or discern fine detail, is reduced.
For example, bright sunlight can affect the ability to judge the contours of the green in golf, or the spin on the ball in soccer or baseball. Sunglasses essentially help you to eliminate the ‘visual noise’ and enhance visual performance. In addition, proper sunglasses can protect the eye from potentially harmful blue light.
Over time, the so-called “Blue Light Hazard” damages the macular region of the retina where we get our sharpest vision and can lead to visual decline at a young age. Blue light is a growing concern with younger generations as it is sourced by a number of common man-made devices like Smartphones, tablets, computers, compact fluorescent and LED lighting. There is also speculation that extensive blue light exposure can play a role in the development of myopia (nearsightedness) in children and young adults.
Despite the number of benefits provided by sunglasses, they also have some disadvantages. Sunglasses can have a restricted or reduced field of view, lens surface reflections, frame discomfort, as well as sweat, precipitation, and debris build-up on the surfaces of the lens. Due to these and other limitations, sunglasses often are not used in certain sports and recreational activities, such as football, soccer, and many water sports. In addition, most filters are not designed to be used indoors with all of the man-made sources of blue light.
Well-designed sunglasses and dietary suppthe eye’s defense against blue light, and also offers additional benefits for those who can’t always use sunglasses. Zeaxanthin and Lutein are naturally occurring nutrients that can nourish and build the part of the retina responsible for sharp vision. Zeaxanthin and Lutein create the yellow pigmentation in the macula, which essentially functions like a pair of “internal sunglasses”, protecting and enhancing your vision quality. If this pigmentation is too thin, blue light can penetrate the retina and cause damage over time, leading to visual decline. Dietary supplementation with these nutrients provides an effective natural method of increasing the eye’s defense against blue light, and also offers additional benefits for those who can’t always use sunglasses.
The popularity and presence of artificial blue light sources and outdoor activities suggests that most people would benefit from these methods to reduce exposure. Well-designed sunglasses and dietary supplementation with zeaxanthin and lutein provide both external and internal protection from the effects of blue light exposure.
Dr. Graham Erickson, OD, is a leader in the sports vision community, having worked with some of the biggest names and franchises in amateur and professional sports. He is the author of the book: Sports Vision: Vision Care For the Enhancement of Sports Performance.