Winter Sunglasses, Not Just for Snowbirds

by
Brian Campbell

Buying sunglasses in February? That means that you are heading south for a winter vacation, right? Not necessarily. In fact, you may have a better reason for wearing sunglasses if you are staying here. Are you aware that the sun’s rays can affect you more in the winter than in the summer? Are you also aware that your eyes may be in danger, even on cloudy days? It may be a good time to update you on winter eye safety.

The Dangers of Ultra Violet Radiation

Everyone knows that sunlight is good for you, when taken in moderation. The sun’s rays provide our bodies with much needed Vitamin D, as well as warming our skin and improving our mood. However, too much exposure to sun can give us a nasty sunburn. Ultra Violet (UV) rays are the part of the sun’s light that both warms and eventually burns our skin. An unfortunate fact is that those same UV rays can also have a negative effect on our vision. There are a number of eye conditions that can be either caused or exacerbated by prolonged exposure to UV radiation, including, Dry Eye Syndrome, Cortical Cataracts, Presbyopia, Uveal Melanoma, and Macular Degeneration, to name a few. In winter, the risk is even greater.

What is Snow Blindness?

Photokeratitis, or Snow Blindness is, in essence, a sunburn on the eyeball. It is caused by the sun’s UV radiation being magnified when it hits the surface of the snow, then reflected back into your eyes. Snow can increase the amount of UV radiation that reaches your eyes by 80 to 85%. This magnified radiation can damage your eyes as quickly as direct exposure to the sun, although, much like a sunburn, you may not notice until the damage is done. Symptoms include painful, blurry, swollen, watery eyes. Extensive exposure can lead to vision loss and possibly even blindness.

How Do I Prevent Snow Blindness?

The best way to protect your eyes from damage caused by UV radiation is to get yourself a good pair of sunglasses. If you are into winter sports such as skiing, snowboarding or snowmobiling, be sure to get a good pair of wraparound goggles with UV protection. Not all sunglasses or goggles are created equal, so make sure that you get ones that block 100% UV rays. Lens darkness or colour is less important than UV protection, and be aware that that UV radiation can reach your eyes, even on cloudy days.

What Else Can I do to Protect My Vision?

If you are concerned that your eyes may have received excessive exposure to UV radiation, if you aren’t sure about the quality of your sunglasses, or for any other vision concerns, always make sure to ask your optometrist. Your optometrist will be happy to answer any questions you have, and advise you on the best way to protect and preserve your eyesight. Don’t take chances with your vision.