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The Eyes Have It


I recently had the opportunity to speak with optometrist Gary Nesty about sun exposure and our kids’ eyes. Please share the information below with your child and his/her coach to help our kids stay healthy out there.

What type of impact does the sun have on eyes, especially eyes of a growing child/teenager?  

Due to the diminishing ozone layer in the atmosphere, outdoors our eyes are exposed to more UV light than ever before. UV wavelengths are invisible to the human eye but still can damage the eye. Because UV is invisible to the eye we are exposed without knowing we are exposed. Children need to be educated from an early age that the sun can not only damage and age their skin but also their eyes. UV exposure can result in “red eyes” and a dry, scratchy, and strained feeling after a day in the sun.

Is the damage caused by the sun on the eyes cumulative? Can early exposure lead to damage/disease later in life (like with skin cancer)?

What UV light does to the human eye is primarily to accelerate aging changes. This means that exposure to UV over the years of an individual’s lifetime can cause early onset of aging changes such as cataracts and macular degeneration. As an optometrist I can tell you that not only do I see more patients with cataracts but I see more patients developing cataracts at a younger age. I do not know of studies currently that indicate that UV exposure has increased the risk of primary ocular melanomas.

Does wearing sunglasses make a difference? If so, does the type of lens in the sunglasses matter? What is the most effective type of lens?  

Wearing sunglasses does make a difference but that difference is dependent on the type of lens in the sunglass. Glass lenses do not filter UV wavelengths naturally but have to be coated to do so. Hard resin or CR39 lenses are the same. High index hard resin and polycarbonate lenses do filter all harmful UV wavelengths. If glass or hard resin lenses that are not treated to filter UV are worn the eye will actually be exposed to higher levels of UV as the tint in the sunglasses will keep the pupil from constricting and allow more UV into the eye. When purchasing sunglasses make sure the lenses are rated to filter all UVA, UVB, and UVC wavelengths. Polycarbonate is the most commonly used lens material that will naturally filter all harmful UV wavelengths.

When shopping for sunglasses to wear on the tennis court, what should the consumer look for? Does it differ for children vs. adults?  

Naturally the individual should select a frame that fits securely on the face and will not slide down or fall off during a match. This obviously means smaller frames for children than adults. I would strongly recommend a polycarbonate lens, not only because of filtering UV, but also because of the unsurpassed impact resistance and lightweight feature. Performance tennis sunglasses should not only protect the eye from the sun, UV, and impact, but also highlight what the wearer needs to see-the yellow tennis ball and out-of-bounds lines. Additional benefits would be anti-fog coatings and hydrophobic coating to reduce lens fog and make perspiration vanish from the lenses.

How often should parents take their children to have their eyes checked by a professional? More often if the child is playing an outdoor sport where sun damage could be a factor?  

At my office we recommend the first eye exam at age 3, unless the parent notices a problem prior to that age. We then recommend an eye exam every year thereafter until the young person is out of school. After schooling is completed we recommend an exam every two years and if the individual spends a lot of time in the outdoors the exam frequency should remain at once per year.

Gary Nesty, O.D. is an optometrist based in Brazil, Indiana, and is the creator of Solar Bat performance sunglasses. He is an avid bass fisherman and all around sportsman. He can be found online at or by phone at 800-761-8228.




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