Danielle Kang Experiences Eye-Opener With Sun Safety And Vision


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LPGA Tour member Danielle Kang began experiencing eye discomfort about three years ago.

At first, her eyes were irritated, dry and red, but those minor symptoms eventually worsened with her continuous exposure to sunlight. Kang was either constantly practicing or competing outdoors and was regularly exposed to the sun’s harsh rays at the peak of each day.

She always wore a visor whenever she played golf, but she did not wear sunglasses -- not on or off the course.

Eventually, her vision became compromised. When she visited her eye doctor, she learned that she had developed a pterygium – a fleshy tissue growth on the white part of the eye. The condition is caused by a combination of dry eyes and exposure to wind, dust or ultraviolet (UV) light from the sun.

“As the pterygium worsened, I was unable to see clearly at certain times of the day, including at dusk and dawn, when the lighting is a little different,” said Kang, who otherwise has perfect vision.

Kang underwent out-patient surgery on her eye to remove the growth on Dec. 19, 2016, and recorded her career-best season performance in 2017, that has included six top-10 finishes, including a win a the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship in late June, and a spot as a rookie on the winning 2017 U.S. Solheim Cup Team in August.

And while Kang has produced 14 career top-10s in her six seasons on the LPGA Tour, what is different this year is that she now wears sunglasses for eye protection whenever she goes outdoors.

“I did not wear sunglasses before – ever,” she said. “Now, I wear them playing golf, in between shots, and I’ve made it a habit to wear sunglasses whenever I can.”

According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology, pterygiums are the result of continuous exposure to UV light and may worsen without adequate eye protection. Golfers, surfers, skiers and anglers may experience these eye growths, which can increase in size and cover part of the cornea, affecting vision.

Individuals at increased risk of eye damage from UV light are those with light-colored (blue or green) eyes, and those who take prescribed drugs that can make the skin more sensitive to light.

Sun damage to the eyes can occur during any season, especially to individuals who are regularly outdoors. Wide-brimmed hats and UV-blocking sunglasses with polarized lenses can offer solar protection.

Sunglasses that filter out 100 percent of UV rays are a good choice. Oversize or wraparound-style glasses may help cut down on sunlight reaching the eyes from the sides.

While polarized lenses can lessen glare, they don’t necessarily offer greater protection from the sun unless the manufacturer has designed the glasses with complete UV protection.

“The lesson I learned is that this could have been prevented if I had just worn sunglasses and protected my eyes,” said Kang, of Las Vegas. “Eyes are extremely delicate muscles and I never want to go through that surgery again.”

Kang had to adjust to wearing sunglasses during competition. She suggests at least wearing sunglasses before and after making shots, and especially around glaring surfaces, such as water, sand and pavement.

“Having clear vision is a blessing,” she added. “So protect it for as long as you can.”

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