Did you know that wearing sunglasses in the winter can actually help you have better eye health? This is especially true if you live in a place that often has snow on the ground. No matter the season, sunlight still comes through the clouds, and can even intensify when hitting snow and then your eyes. This is how snow blindness and sun-related eye problems can be so common in the winter.
Ultraviolet rays are not purple rays that you can see with your eyes. UV rays (as they are commonly referred to as) are light rays that are on the visible light spectrum. That is the spectrum of lights that can be seen with the naked eye. However, it doesn’t mean those light rays are actually visible. UV light is on the part of the spectrum where there is lots of energy and short wavelengths. That means in one small wave of light hitting you, it’s carrying tons of energy straight at your eye. That light rays help us to interpret the colors that we see, as they all carry different amount of energy according to their wavelength. It is what will differentiate red from yellow and green from blue.
The only problem with UV lights is that they can’t generally be seen by the naked eye despite being on the visible light spectrum. When you go outside, you are exposed to UV light every single day without always knowing it. These light rays are given off by the sun and they carry so much energy that they can burn both your skin and your eyes. Because UV light is so hard to see, your skin or eyes will slowly become burned without sunscreen and sunglasses protecting you.
Long-term UV damage is known to be a risk factor for many eye diseases such as macular degeneration, cataracts, blindness and more. If you already have an eye issue, not wearing proper protection can make your condition worse. Ever heard of photokeratitis? This is snow blindness that happens often with those who ski and snowboard if they don’t wear protective sunglasses or goggles. However, it can happen with any person who is exposed to too much UV rays without protection, and it’s common in the wintertime with snow and ice.
Studies show that UV light rays will bounce off of snow and ice and will be reflected into your eyes. The Vision Council of America reports that around 85% of UV rays in the winer are reflected up, which usually means up into your eyes when you look down. Instead of simply being bright, that amount of light with so much energy can sunburn your eyes. This can happen throughout a short while of being outside or it can happen immediately. Signs of snow blindness include redness, loss of vision, blurry vision, sensitivity to light, excessive tearing, eye pain, a gritty feeling in the eyes, small pupils and seeing halos in your vision. The vision loss is generally temporary, but permanent vision loss can happen over time with repeated bouts of snow blindness.
Did you know that the clouds don’t block out sunlight? Many people believe they do, when UV rays actually penetrate straight through the clouds. Just because you can’t see the sun doesn’t mean that you aren’t getting UV damage from the sun. In fact, you can have even more sun damage happen in the winter than you would get in the summer.
If you don’t want to be sporting sunglasses everywhere you go, you can consider getting a pair of photochromic lenses. These are ones that will respond to sunlight and will change darker as sun protection is needed. When going outdoors, the glasses will change darker when UV light is present, and when going indoors, the glasses will change back to normal lenses. You can get photochromic lenses in your vision prescription as well.
You may be stylish and protected from harsh UV rays in both the winter and summer, but don’t forget to do the same for your children. In fact, it may be even more important for children to wear sunglasses, as their vision is still developing. A child’s eyes will develop fully over the first 10 years of their life. The first year is the most important, as colors, depth perception, central vision and more is developed. Over the next 10 years, that development will continue.
That vision can be damaged early-on when sunglasses aren’t worn, especially when children are outside frequently. Many parents don’t know the importance of sunglasses for children and don’t stress that they wear them. This is especially true with little ones who take sunglasses off. It’s incredibly important to wear sunglasses though, even if your child needs ones that fasten around the head. Studies show that Americans spend so much time outdoors that the eyes and body have absorbed half a lifetime’s worth of UV rays by age 18. For a child’s sunglasses, you want to make sure they have 100% UVA and UVB protection and block UV absorption up to 400 nanometers. They need to fit a child’s face and block and protect the area around the eyes.
If you would wear sunglasses outside, that is a good indication that they need them as well. We offer sunglasses services for both children and adults that can be custom-made or bought in-store. Because the skin around the eyes is some of the most sensitive skin on your face, we also provide sunglasses that can wrap around the face or that can cover all the areas directly around the eyes. Sports glasses, winter glasses for snow activities and everyday sunglasses can be fit to your face. To have your free sunglasses consultation, call Peeper’s Optical today at (303) 333-2800!