When the days are cloudy and cold, sunglasses are probably the last thing on your mind. But winter eye protection can prevent painful temporary conditions and permanent eye damage.
Why do I need winter eye protection?
Did you know your eyes can get sunburned in the winter? Snow and ice reflect 80 percent of the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays. Whether you’re skiing, snowboarding or working outdoors, UV rays strike from every angle, even on cloudy days.
UV exposure can cause a painful condition called photokeratitis, or “snow blindness.” Reporter Anderson Cooper recently experienced temporary vision loss from this condition. He was on the water, but strong glare from any source can cause symptoms.
Comon Winter Eye Problems
Knowing what your eyes are up against will help you understand why you need eye protection in the winter. There are several ways your eyes can suffer during the cold season. These are the most common winter eye problems, but you can avoid them with the right eye protection.
- Dry eyes - Many people experience dry eyes in the winter, even in more humid climates. This is because cold air contains less water than warm air, and wind can further minimize the moisture. Dry eyes can look red, feel itchy, or even have a burning sensation.
- Watery eyes - Watery eyes are another frequent problem in the winter. The dry air leaves our eyes with a thinner layer of tears to protect the surface of the eye, which may lead the eyes to over-compensate by producing extra tears.
- Snow blindness - When the snow reflects sunlight, it can create an intense UV light that is very dangerous to the eyes. Snow blindness happens when the cornea is damaged by this strong UV light and causes temporary blurry vision.
- Altitude problems - If you spend time on the slopes in the winter, you may experience even more risk of winter eye problems, including dry eyes, watery eyes, and snow blindness. This is because there is even less protection from UV light at higher elevations.
In fact, eyes can be more at risk in the winter than in the summer. Here are a few things that you can do to keep your eyes protected and safe during the winter:
Keep wearing those UV-A or UV-B protecting sunglasses
Light reflecting off of the snow can be even brighter than light reflected off of water. Regardless of how sunny or cloudy it is, wear sunglasses every day to prevent UV-ray exposure.
Wear a hat or hoods
Shelter your eyes from freezing temperatures and harsh winds that lead to dry winter eyes. Hats, hoods, and scarves offer some winter eye protection from the elements. You’ll feel warmer, dryer, and cozier when you venture outside, and your eyes will thank you for the extra protection.
Use sunscreen on your face and neck
Select a good, moisturizing sunscreen that has an SPF of at least 30. Make sure to reapply according to package instructions.
Wear proper eye protection when you are outside – Whether you are shoveling snow, doing yard work or hanging exterior holiday decorations, wear polycarbonate safety goggles to keep any foreign objects from penetrating your eyes and causing permanent damage.
Keep eye drops handy
Your eyes may become dried out or irritated by cold, drying winds. Use moisturizing drops to keep them lubricated. Being indoors can also dry out your eyes as furnaces and heaters can remove moisture from the air.
Goggles Protect In Three Ways
Goggles not only protect our eyes from UV rays, but they also help keep our eyes from drying out from the winter wind. In addition, think about all those errant branches, twigs, tree limbs, and slush full of gravel that can severely injure our eyes upon contact. It just makes good sense to wear quality goggles. Don’t neglect them!
Turn On The Humidifier
Humidifiers aren’t just useful when you have a cold. Use them as a preventative treatment and you’ll be less likely to develop dry or watery eyes. Humidifiers can be used day or night while you’re in your home - the ideal humidity level for healthy eyes and skin is around 45%. Place one next to your bed or purchase a home humidifier system, which distributes vaporized air throughout the whole house.
And By The Way... Protect Your Skin Too!
We’re as concerned about your whole body health as we are about your vision health. So remember to not only protect your eyes from the winter sun’s effects, but protect your skin as well.
Wash Hands Before Touching Eyes
Winter time is cold and flu season, so be extra diligent about washing hands to reduce the spread of viruses and bacteria. Never touch or rub your eyes without washing your hands first. Germs from your fingers can quickly spread to your eyes and make them irritated and itchy.
VISIT YOUR OPTOMETRIST
Protect your eyes by making an appointment with an optometrist, who can test your vision, diagnose vision problems, provide treatment for some eye conditions, and manage vision changes. Your optometrist can diagnose winter-related eye problems such as dry and conjunctivitis, for example, and provide treatment for many eye conditions associated with winter. Your optometrist can also perform preventive screening that detects vision problems early, while eye diseases are most responsive to treatment.
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Make your appointment today
Due to COVID-19 safety protocols, all eyewear services are currently by appointment only. Please call to make an appointment.
At Golden Eye Optometry, we view good vision care as front line protection at every age. A routine eye exam can detect more than poor vision. It can shed early light on glaucoma, macular degeneration, cataracts and diabetes.