When summer comes around in Australia, UV intensity peaks. That means protection against UV skin and eye damage is a must. Sunglasses should be worn by the entire population and as optometrists it is our job to educate our patients on why. So where do you start?
Sport has to be one of Australia’s favourite topics of conversation and pastime – pretty much everyone is passionate about one sport or another – whether they play or watch.
Sport is a great way to start a conversation with your patients. Then, once you build a rapport it’s easier to educate them about the importance of wearing quality sunglasses. It also presents an opportunity for you to demonstrate your expertise, high standards of service and interest in your patient’s eye health.
Of course, before you can do this, and if you haven’t already, you’ll need to develop your own in-depth knowledge about sports sunglasses and lenses, and be able to identify the frames and lenses appropriate for each sport.
the more passionate they are about their sport, the more benefit they will derive from wearing specialised sunglasses
Armed with this knowledge, you’ll be ready to ask your patients about their hobbies, sports and recreational interests… and offer intelligent advice. Optometry is all too guilty of what I call being ‘symptom solvers’. Too often we are flat chat, running late and busy dealing with the presenting complaint… we don’t stop to think outside the immediate concerns at hand. While we all know we should do it, how many of us consciously take time to sit back and look at each patient holistically, to examine their overall visual needs, in an effort to determine how we can add value and enhance their visual experience at work and at play.
From my experience, when you find a patient who is passionate about sport, they will want to know all about the sunglasses that can further improve their performance. In fact the more passionate they are about their sport, the more benefit they will derive from wearing specialised sunglasses.
This is because vision is clearly important for success in most sporting tasks.
Professional athletes will do just about anything to get extra performance and the good news is that sunglasses are a legal performance enhancer.
Even the recreational sports person will want the best performance equipment to assist them. One only needs to look at the middle aged cyclist who will spend a small fortune on getting a component which is 100gm lighter but would benefit more by losing a kg or two.
What to Advise On
Once you have determined which sport your customer plays, you’ll be ready to help them select the best product to suit. Start by talking about the importance of fit – after all, sports sunglasses need to fit securely during physical activity and be safe to wear, as well as enhancing vision and providing extra performance.
When it comes to lenses, there is plenty to discuss. Here are the major considerations:
Polarised sunglasses are the best way to eliminate reflected glare from surfaces such as pavements, roads, water and snow. For this reason, they are extremely useful for water sports, fishing, running, cycling and even driving.
100 Per Cent UV Protection
Colour and darkness are not indicators of UV protection. Sunglasses need to have 100 per cent UVA and UVB protection to help a patient avoid eye disease.
The tint colour of the lens you recommend should always depend on the patient’s sport, the environment in which they play and the lighting conditions they experience. The table above provides an overview of the most appropriate tint for each sport.
Photochromic lenses are particularly useful for sports people who are active in varying light conditions. A great example of this is cycling. Often a cyclist will start off early in the morning in darkness or low light and ride through until the sun is high.
Anti-reflective coatings are also a sensible suggestion for cyclists. Added to the back surface of the glasses, they will eliminate reflections when the sun is shining from behind.
Specialised sunglass lenses are now readily available in prescription single vision and multifocal lenses with higher indexes, and they can be made to be indistinguishable from other sports sunglasses. Additionally, digital surfacing technology allows for prescription lenses to be made in wrap around sunglass frames without compromising optical performance as
has occurred in the past.
Using specific sunglass prescriptions, such as Bolle, Serengeti, Oakley and Maui Jim to name a few, makes it easier to discuss the difference that prescription sunglasses can make to your patient’s sport.
Start the Education Process
Sunglasses can make a significant difference to the enjoyment and success of a patient’s sporting activities. Providing the best professional advice about lenses and frames for the benefit of each patient requires some extra work and conscious effort, but your patients will thank you for it… and your practice will grow.
Jim Papas is an optometrist with extensive experience in contact lenses. He’s also an expert in retail, business strategy and brand development. Jim has won multiple awards for customer service and commercial innovation, including the 2015 Australian Retail Innovator of the Year award.