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Vision Health Precautions for Sportsmen (Hunters, Fishers, etc.)

Whether you are on the water making your next catch or in the field taking that perfect shot, eye health is crucial for every sportsman. Keen precision and a clear field of vision are necessary for successfully partaking in outdoor sports. 

Various potential hazards that negatively affect eye health can present themselves when hunting or fishing, so certain precautions to prevent eye injuries must also be taken.

Vision Considerations When Outdoors

A large part of the fun and excitement that go along with being an outdoors enthusiast is not knowing what to expect next. In addition to keeping tradition alive and maintaining animal populations, the great outdoors exude adventure and intrigue. However, there are certain things to be aware of when you are out in the natural elements when it comes to eye health.

  • Being out in the sun for too long can have negative effects on the eyes. Initially, vision may be temporarily blurred or strained when exposed to too much ultraviolet (UV) light. These immediate symptoms quickly go away, but cataracts can develop later in life, which can potentially result in complete blindness if left untreated.
  • The wind can cause eye issues. Heavy winds increase the chances of debris striking the eyes when a person is outdoors, but the wind itself can also harm the eyes by drying them out. This prevents adequate moisture and can lead to blurry vision, inflammation, and even abrasions on the corneal surface.
  • Being outdoors actually improves vision. This is because people are not straining their eyes and staring at a screen when they are outside. Studies have shown that staring at a screen reduces the blink rate, which dries out the eyes. This can strain them even more and can also lead to nearsightedness. 
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How to Protect Your Eyes When Outdoors

Hunters and anglers spend a lot of time outdoors exposed to the elements. While being outside away from computer screens and phones does improve vision, there are also many things that can potentially harm the eyes.

Protect Your Eyes From the Sun

The UV radiation emitted from the sun is detrimental to eye health. Only a small portion of the sun’s rays are made up of UV radiation. However, too much exposure to UV light can cause blurry vision, extra sensitivity to light, both wet and dry eyes, and even vision loss. 

On a long-term basis, too much exposure to the sun’s UV rays can cause these issues:

  • Cataracts
  • Macular degeneration
  • Pterygium
  • Keratitis

To avoid the risk of developing any of the aforementioned ailments, eye protection is necessary. The easiest way an outdoor enthusiast can protect their eyes is by wearing high-quality sunglasses that block UV light. Hats and visors are also helpful when keeping a person’s eyes out of the sun.

Protect Your Eyes From Trauma

Eye trauma is defined as a bruise, puncture, or scratch on the eye. The trauma can be caused by a number of things when indulging in outdoor activities. 

Many outdoor enthusiasts are at risk of eye trauma from loose branches in wooded areas that might scratch the surface of the cornea. The best way to avoid eye trauma from loose branches is to be extra mindful of your surroundings and wear protective glasses or goggles.

Hunters are at risk of developing eye trauma from shooting shotguns. A shotgun propels tiny pellets that can severely damage eyes or even result in temporary or permanent blindness. Wearing protective goggles with polycarbonate lenses is the best way to prevent eye trauma from a shotgun accident. 

Fishing enthusiasts are also at risk of eye trauma. A fishhook can sometimes accidentally pierce the eyelid and cornea of an angler, resulting in localized retinal detachment.

Protect Your Eyes From Extreme Temperatures

Sportsmen who spend a lot of time outdoors in colder climates are at risk of damaging their eyes from frigid temperatures. Colder temperatures can cause the blood vessels in the eyes to constrict. This can result in blurred vision or double vision in more extreme cases. 

To avoid this, it is important to periodically warm your eyes by seeking shelter and wear protective goggles when exposed to the elements.

Adversely, extremely hot temperatures can also negatively impact eye health. Too much exposure to drastically high temperatures can cause itching, redness, sties, and pink eye (conjunctivitis). 

Protect Your Eyes From Saltwater

Open-water fishing enthusiasts who spend time around the ocean can often be exposed to saltwater. Eyes can become dried out when exposed to ocean water because the water’s high salt content draws the lubricating liquids from the eye. This may lead to stinging and burning sensations. 

Bacteria, sand, and microorganisms are also found in the ocean’s saltwater and can irritate the eyes. Goggles can protect the eyes from both the dry salt and potential irritants found in the water.

Eye Conditions Outdoors Enthusiasts Are Prone to & How to Prevent Them

Sportsmen and other outdoor enthusiasts are prone to developing certain eye conditions. Luckily, there are ways to prevent such conditions.

Eye Trauma

Eye trauma is classified as any bruise, puncture, or scratch on the eye’s surface. Eye trauma can be caused by contact from tree branches, head injuries sustained from tree stand accidents, shotgun blast misfires or ricochets, and other direct contact to the eye. Firearms can also blow back excessive powder after being discharged that can severely burn the eyes. 

Significant eye trauma may lead to these problems:

  • Excessive pain
  • Swelling and redness
  • Internal and external bleeding
  • Visual impairment
  • Permanent blindness

Prevention of eye trauma can be accomplished by wearing appropriate safety glasses or goggles depending on the activity. Firearms enthusiasts and hunters should protect their eyes with shooting glasses that feature polycarbonate lenses. Regular safety glasses can also be worn if the outdoor activity exposes the eyes to flying debris.


Outdoor enthusiasts who spend a lot of time exposed to the sun’s harmful UV rays are at risk of developing cataracts later in life. A cataract is when the eye’s natural lens becomes cloudy and causes impaired vision

Symptoms of cataracts can start occurring after the age of 40. They include the following:

  • Blurred or cloudy vision
  • Double vision
  • Extra sensitivity to light
  • Trouble seeing in the nighttime
  • Not being able to make out bright colors
  • Visual impairment
  • Permanent blindness

Cataracts can occur even without extra exposure to the sun and might even be determined by genetics. However, outdoor enthusiasts can take steps to prevent cataract development by wearing sunglasses that block UV radiation and wearing hats or visors that keep the eyes out of direct sunlight.

Macular Degeneration

Too much exposure to the sun’s harmful UV rays can increase the risk of developing macular degeneration. Macular degeneration is a disease that blurs central vision by damaging the macula of the eye, which is part of the retina. 

These are potential symptoms of macular degeneration:

  • Blurred or cloudy vision
  • Not being able to recognize familiar faces
  • Blind spots in vision
  • Wavy and distorted vision
  • Loss of central vision
  • Permanent blindness

There is no cure for macular degeneration, but preventative measures can be taken, such as wearing sunglasses that block UV light when outside or staying out of the sun. There are not many treatments for macular degeneration that are implemented by an optometrist or an ophthalmologist. However, a healthy diet and getting enough exercise can help to slow the progression of macular degeneration.


Pterygium is the overgrowth of the thin, clear membrane that protects the eye (the conjunctiva tissue). Eye irritation from wind and flying debris can cause pterygium, but the leading cause of the affliction is too much exposure to the sun’s harmful UV rays. 

As pterygium grows, it starts to cover portions of the cornea and start to affect vision. Symptoms of pterygium include the following:

  • Blurred or cloudy vision
  • Red eyes
  • Burning sensations
  • Double vision
  • Uncontrollable blinking
  • Visual impairment
  • Permanent blindness

Pterygium can be treated with various topical medications to alleviate the unpleasant symptoms while surgery is required to physically remove the pterygium. To help prevent pterygium from occurring, it is recommended to wear sunglasses that block UV light, wear hats or visors that block direct sunlight, and limit time in the sun.


Noninfectious keratitis is inflammation of the cornea and can occur when a foreign object gets stuck in the eye. Sportspeople who are out in the woods often or exposed to other conditions where tiny objects might come in contact with their eyes are at risk of developing keratitis. 

Symptoms of keratitis include the following:

  • Red eyes
  • Mild pain
  • Teary eyes
  • Blurred or decreased vision
  • Extra sensitivity to light

More mild cases of keratitis will typically go away on their own and more severe cases require topical antibiotics and other prescribed eye medications. Outdoor enthusiasts should be mindful of their surroundings when engaging in outdoor activities to prevent any foreign objects from being lodged in their eyes. 

If exposed to small objects, flush the eyes with room temperature water to help prevent keratitis from occurring.

How Being Outdoors Might Positively Affect Eye Health

Despite all of the potential eye conditions and diseases that can result from being an outdoor enthusiast, there are various benefits regarding eye health. Again, being outdoors means less time spent on screens, which can have a positive effect on eye health.

Preventing Myopia

Children spending more time outdoors is an effective way to help prevent the onset of myopia, or nearsightedness. When spending time outside, children get more natural light that lets their eyes develop properly. 

In addition to having better overall vision, preventing myopia also decreases the chances of developing glaucoma and other eye issues in the future. 

While everyone should take measures to protect their eyes from excessive UV light, time outdoors brings many benefits to overall health, including eye health.


  1. Aerobic Exercise Protects Retinal Function and Structure from Light-Induced Retinal Degeneration. (February 2014). The Journal of Neuroscience.

  2. Editorial: Updates on Ocular Trauma. (April 2022). Frontiers in Medicine.

  3. Genetics of Human Cataract. (June 2013). Clinical Genetics.

  4. How the Great Outdoors Improves Your Vision. (July 2020). Rethink Rural.

  5. Penetrating Eyelid and Ocular Fishhook-Related Injury. (January 2019). Case Reports in Ophthalmology.

  6. Pterygium: Surgical Techniques and Choices. (December 2019). Asia-Pacific Journal of Ophthalmology.

  7. Shotgun Eye Injuries. Ocular Risk and Eye Protection Efficacy. (June 1992). Ophthalmology.

  8. Sun Exposure and Pterygium of the Eye: A Dose-Response Curve. (September 1999). American Journal of Ophthalmology.

  9. Time Spent in Outdoor Activities in Relation to Myopia Prevention and Control: A Meta‐Analysis and Systematic Review. (September 2017). Acta Ophthalmologica.

  10. Ultraviolet Damage to the Eye Revisited: Eye-Sun Protection Factor (E-SPF®), a New Ultraviolet Protection Label for Eyewear. (December 2013). Clinical Ophthalmology.

  11. Update on the Management of Infectious Keratitis. (November 2018). Ophthalmology.

  12. What Are Cataracts? (September 2022). American Academy of Ophthalmology.

  13. Time Spent Outdoors in Childhood Is Associated With Reduced Risk of Myopia as an Adult. (March 2021). Scientific Reports.

Last Updated February 2, 2023

Note: This page should not serve as a substitute for professional medical advice from a doctor or specialist. Please review our about page for more information.

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