Chasing a pair of glasses downstream after they get knocked off your face by a river rapid isn’t anyone’s idea of a perfect outing.
Here in the Pacific Northwest, we live in the perfect place to explore any number of outdoor activities on a daily basis. However, if you’re one of the many people who need some kind of vision correction you may be wondering how you can pursue those activities while being able to actually see all the majestic beauty that surrounds you. After all, chasing a pair of glasses downstream after they get knocked off your face by a river rapid or being stuck trying to put in a new contact in the middle of your favorite dusty hiking trail isn’t anyone’s idea of a perfect outing.
Outdoor commuters: Cyclists and joggers
For the many in our region who get in a jog before or after work, or the brave who commute by bicycle, if you wear glasses you’ve probably experienced the very real Northwestern problem that goes along with that: the weather. “Glasses don’t come with windshield wipers,” says Dr. Annie Curttright, an optometrist at LasikPlus in Portland, Oregon. “The only time I really recommend glasses with an active lifestyle is if you want that style factor, which a lot of cool hipsters in the Northwest do! They’re definitely a lot cooler than they used to be, but overall glasses are really more of a fashion statement than a functional statement.”
Instead, for those who spend time out in the rainy weather while running or biking, Curttright suggests talking with your optometrist about the best options for you to jog or cycle glasses-free. “Contacts are the first step into some freedom from having glasses in front of you,” she says. “Refractive surgery is a great option to consider as well for anyone who spends a lot of time outdoors. Even with little prescription differences, the quality of vision from a refractive surgery will give you such higher definition in what you can see than even contacts.”
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Water-sport enthusiasts: Kayakers, swimmers and surfers
If you’re out on the water in the Northwest, it might not always be sunny, but you do still need to remember that UV protection — not just for your skin, but for your eyes, too. This is where contacts can be a big positive, says Dr. Curttright. “For surfers, paddle boarders and kayakers, soft contacts have a benefit: built-in UV protection. I suggest my clients wear contacts if they have them, because you certainly can’t wear sunglasses while you’re surfing, for instance.”
You might want to consider a more permanent option if you’re more than a casual water-sports enthusiast. “If you’re doing this a lot and you’re in extreme conditions, then you’re likely to get a face full of water from time to time, and that means there’s risk of losing a contact — which could make for a rougher journey down the rapids than is necessary.” So if you’re heading down those big rapids on a regular basis, you may want to consider your options for refractive surgery to get that total freedom while enjoying your sport.
If you’re bringing along your kids, you might have to consider some different options. Most kids are probably not wearing contacts and aren’t good candidates for surgery yet, since their eyes are still changing. So if your mini-paddleboarder needs vision correction, too, consider the specialty sports glasses that fit all the way around the head, says Dr. Curttright. “If you have to wear glasses on a river, using one of those styles is the best option overall,” she says.
Mountain lovers: Hikers and climbers
If you’re more the type to head to the mountains for the weekend, the same general message goes: if glasses are too cumbersome, consider your options for contacts or refractive surgery. However, the difference with these outdoor activities is the vast amount of time you’ll probably spend outside, meaning you’ll definitely want to protect your eyes from those UV rays. For that reason, Dr. Curttright suggests making sunglasses a part of your essential gear.
“Having sunglasses with different types of lenses can really help you see throughout the day,” she says. “If you’re hiking on a mountain, the light will change a lot. Sometimes the dark shaded sunglasses are too dark in the shade, so check out the different tints available, there are light browns, greens and yellows, that will all offer a little different tint depending on the kind of landscape you’re hiking through.”
When shopping for sunglasses, you don’t have to get those specialty polarized lenses, Dr. Curttright says. The traditional tinted ones almost all have UV protection built in whether they’re polarized or not. When you do want to consider a polarized lens, is if you’ll be near water. “The polarized filter allows you to see right into the water from the top, it cuts the glare, so you can see fish and plants in the water — it’s awesome,” she says.
Winter sports: Skiers and snowboarders
If you’re hitting the slopes you should be wearing goggles whether you need vision correction or not. Again, they’re important for UV protection, which you need a lot of with all that glare off the slopes. “Sometimes I see people on the mountain wearing just glasses and I think, ‘What are you doing to your corneas!’ ” says Dr. Curttright.
If you are a glasses-wearer who also likes to ski or snowboard, she suggests looking into goggles that you can get with an insert lens that fits your prescription. “It’s much more convenient than doubling up, with your glasses under your goggles.”
As with other outdoor activities, contacts and refractive surgery could cut down on any hassles, like having to worry about what happens if you have a crash that breaks your goggles or glasses, or whether you remembered to cart your contact solution up the mountain with you.
Overall, Dr. Curttright says that for her clients with active lifestyles, glasses are always going to be the most inconvenient option, and suggests talking with your optometrist about contacts and surgical options. There are some people for whom who contacts may not be a good option: like those who have a fairly small prescription, a particular corneal shape or extra-dry eyes. “Some people also are just terrified of putting contacts in,” says Dr. Curttright. “For all those folks, refractive surgery is a great option to consider.”
On the other hand, some people with trauma or disease in the cornea, or whose prescription hasn’t stabilized yet, might not be eligible for surgery and should see what their best specialty contact options are for the types of activities they enjoy.
Of course, those who can see the most dramatic change in their vision and quality of life with refractive surgery are the people with really big prescriptions, as there are many surgical options for various issues, from astigmatism to the need for reading glasses. “Getting to see the emotions of people who have really big prescriptions and get the surgery, and fifteen minutes later can see in a way they haven’t in years, that’s my favorite part of my profession,” says Dr. Curttright. “It’s really awesome to get to be a part of helping someone enjoy their life in a whole new way like that.”
LasikPlus offers multiple treatment options, including LASIK and PRK eye surgery to meet your unique vision-correction needs. Get your free consultation today.