Many people know that it’s important to protect their eyes during the summer months. This is a time when the sun is out most days and UV damage to the eyes and skin is high. However, many people aren’t aware that the sun can cause just as much damage on an overcast day or during the wintertime. Snow can actually intensify the damage your eyes receive because of the reflection of the sun off the snow coming in contact with your eyes. It’s very important to keep wearing protective eyewear and even sunscreen during the fall and winter months. It’s also important to keep eye drops handy, as dry eyes and irritation becomes more common when it’s chilly out. Learn how you can protect your eyes during the winter so that you can enjoy the season even more!
Like many people, you may know the importance of protecting your eyes with sunglasses during the summer months. Sunglasses provide a barrier between your eyes and the harmful ultraviolet rays from the sun. Ultraviolet rays are light rays from the sun that come through the layers of our atmosphere. They are so damaging to both your skin and your eyes because of the energy this color of lightwave carries. Ultraviolet (UV) rays lie in the ultraviolet section of the visible light spectrum, or the lights that we can see with the naked eye. Light flows on a wave, and depending on how close together the lightwaves are, the amount of energy they carry will vary.
The sun is out the majority of the summer in many places of the world. That means ample amounts of visible light is hitting you when you go outside. UV rays have short wavelengths, so they carry a lot of energy, more than your body and eyes can handle without protection. This is why you must wear sunscreen and sunglasses or you’ll be burned by the light. You can actually get a sunburn on your eyeballs as well, which is something most patients want to avoid. You can with a good pair of sunglasses.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has helped more Americans be aware of the damage UV radiation can have on their vision. Many people think that they only have to be careful about protecting their eyes during the spring and summer months. However, winter is a prime season for vision damage caused by the sun. Many believe that because wintertime is generally overcast, then they are protected from the sun. However, that’s not true. In fact, you may be hurting both your skin and your eyes more during the winter. How? Because you aren’t as vigilant with protecting your eyes during this time.
Most people don’t wear sunglasses in the winter. However, clouds don’t block out the sun’s UV rays. The sun’s light is also intensified by snow on the ground, as white will reflect that light straight into your eyes. Winter is a popular time for activities such as sledding, skiing, snowboarding, and playing outside. Make sure to wear goggles to protect your eyes from the sun’s rays (even if it’s overcast) as well as harsh winds and the cold that can dry out your eyes.
Winter is prime time for dry eyes and irritation, especially if you are around hot fireplaces and other areas that blow hot air. Keep eye drops on hand to keep your eyes moistened throughout the day and you can avoid irritation. Also, never look directly at snow when the sun is out, as you can blind yourself for a few seconds. If you continue looking at the snow, you may find yourself with a sunburn on your eyes at the end of the day or vision loss. This is also known as snow blindness, and it can be painful. You can avoid all of these problems and keep your eyes healthy by using eye drops and protective eyewear.
UV radiation can lead to a myriad of eye problems that are quite serious. Some of these include cataracts, macular degeneration, photokeratitis (or temporary vision loss), and more. These problems all stem from not wearing proper eye protection! Having sunglasses seems like such a simple solution, but knowledge about eye damage is actually key. Protecting your eyes in winter is easier if you actually know that they are at risk for damage. Sunglasses can provide you all the protection you need to block out harmful UV rays, however, you don’t just want to buy any sunglasses.
You want to choose sunglasses that protect you from 99-100% of UVA and UVB rays. The sunglasses that do this will have a label on them telling you so. Many labels say they protect against “UV 400”. This means the glasses block out all harmful UV rays. There are many sunglasses out there that are “fashion” glasses and do not block out harmful rays—they only provide tinted lenses. You can only purchase proper, protective eyewear through professionals, and our office is one area that has this eyewear.
We recommend that everyone receive an eye exam at least every two years per the recommendation of the American Optometric Association. For patients with common or complex eye conditions, they should receive an eye exam each year. This is a time to learn more about your eyes and one of the best ways to ensure your eyes are healthy. To schedule your appointment or to learn more about protecting your eyes in winter, call Peepers Optical at (303) 223-0401!